Inkster cop charged, but driver wants others punished

George Hunter
The Detroit News

Motorist Floyd Dent is happy the former Inkster police officer who was captured on video beating him faces criminal charges, but the 55-year-old autoworker now wants other officers who were at the scene punished, his attorney said.

Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy on Monday announced criminal charges against William Melendez, whom her office charged with misconduct in office and assault with intent to do great bodily harm. If convicted, he faces up to 10 years in prison.

In a separate videotaped police encounter, Worthy said she won't charge a police sergeant who arrested Andrew Jackson, a Detroit man charged with carjacking and whose arrest by a multi-jurisdictional, anti-carjacking task force was videotaped by a citizen Jan. 12 in Detroit.

In Dent's case, the video captured him being beaten by Melendez during a stop in late January in Inkster. Melendez said he found cocaine on Dent, and he was charged with drug possession, although Worthy on Monday dismissed the charge.

Dent and attorneys say he was racially profiled and officers used excessive force in the Jan. 28 arrest. The video was released by his attorney, Greg Rohl.

"It's a great day for the legal system," Rohl said in response to Worthy's announcement.

"I would like to see others ... held accountable for their actions," said Rohl, who was joined by Dent in his Novi office. "Others stood by and did nothing or were complacent in trying to (frame Dent)."

But Worthy said during her press conference she's finished with her investigation, and that no further charges are forthcoming. She said she considered several pieces of evidence before making the decision to bring criminal charges.

"To many people in this region and across the country, police brutality appears to be out of control," Worthy said during a press conference. "It eradicates the confidence that's been built in those communities where good work has done (by police) to establish those relationships.

"We cannot tolerate those who abuse their authority ... and prey on citizens. We cannot turn our heads when law enforcement becomes the lawbreaker."

Dent, a Ford Motor Co. employee and Detroit resident, thanked his employer and "everyone who has stood beside me throughout this horrible nightmare."

Civil case to continue

Rohl said there is another portion of the arrest video he has not seen and because the charge against Dent was dropped he no longer has subpoena power for it. He said he is unsure if he will have access to it.

Rohl said he is negotiating with Inkster officials to settle a civil case against the city.

"It's not over for us from a civil perspective," Rohl said.

Melendez was fired from the Inkster Police Department Wednesday.

"I terminated Officer Melendez's employment with the Inkster Police Department ... which I and others believe was in the best interest of our community," Inkster City Manager Richard Marsh said Monday in a written statement. "We acknowledge Prosecutor Worthy's charging decision and will cooperate with the prosecutor."

Teamsters Local 214 business representative Al Lewis said last week Melendez was only fired after the media covered the case.

"The supervisor on the shift did his investigation and evidently found nothing wrong, because Officer Melendez was on the road for another six weeks after that," Lewis said. "It wasn't until Dent got an attorney and all of the sudden the video is on TV that they decided to fire this guy."

Melendez remains employed as a part-time officer in Highland Park, Lewis said.

Highland Park City Attorney Todd Perkins said Melendez will not return to active duty until the issue is resolved.

Ron Scott, of the Detroit Coalition Against Police Brutality, called on the Inkster Police Department to reassess its hiring practices so officers "should not go from municipality to municipality to engage in misconduct and abusive practices."

Protesters call for firing

About two dozen protesters gathered Monday morning outside Highland Park's municipal building to call for the city to remove Melendez.

A leader of the demonstration, the Rev. Charles Williams II, said: "Melendez needs to go now, and he needs to be prosecuted."

Rohl said problems are "systemic" in the Inkster Police Department. Inkster Police officials did not return a phone call Monday seeking comment on that allegation.

In the Jackson case, the sergeant involved in the arrest, Ronald Dupuis, was seen hitting the suspect, but Worthy said it did not rise to the level of criminal charges.

"Mr. Jackson was not handcuffed when the video captured (the incident)," she said. "It was clear he was a felon attempting to flee … and refused to surrender his right hand for handcuffing.

"Although the conduct is improper, it does not support a criminal charge. The police department should determine an appropriate administrative response."

Jackson, 51, who is set to go to trial in June, is charged with carjacking a Detroit grandmother and her two young grandsons at gunpoint Jan. 12 at Plainview and Evergreen in Detroit. During his preliminary examination March 3 on the carjacking charges, Jackson denied it was him.

After the alleged carjacking, Jackson reportedly fled the scene and was apprehended on Evergreen by several officers assigned to the multi-agency anti-theft task force, near where the original incident took place.

A resident in the area videotaped the arrest and police officers are seen kicking Jackson as he is handcuffed. Jackson has filed a $1 million civil lawsuit in the matter claiming his constitutional rights were violated.

Worthy said she reached her decisions on both cases after state police investigations.

(313) 222-2134

Detroit News Staff Writers Holly Fournier, Charles Ramirez, Oralandar Brand-Williams and Candice Williams contributed.