Cop charged with assault, misconduct in Inkster case

George Hunter and Holly Fournier
The Detroit News

Inkster — A former police officer captured on video punching Detroiter Floyd Dent during a January arrest in Inkster was arraigned Tuesday on assault and misconduct charges.

William Melendez, 46, was arraigned in 22nd District Court on one count assault with intent to do great bodily harm, which carries up to 10 years in prison, and one count misconduct in office mistreatment, which carries up to five years.

His bond was set at $25,000 and a probable cause hearing is scheduled for May 6, said Maria Miller, spokeswoman for the Wayne County Prosecutor's Office.

"We're obviously concerned," attorney David Lee, who is representing Melendez, said after the arraignment. "We know people have seen and heard a lot and we just hope everyone will withhold judgment and leave things up to the final arbiter."

Crystal Linton, director of the National Action Network's Inkster chapter, said her group has been calling on the police department to dismiss Melendez since last year.

"Our chapter took three complaints (on Melendez) last year," she said after the arraignment. "That prompted us to look into his background and we found out he was 'Robocop.'"

Linton said the group published an alert in their newsletter to warn residents about Melendez.

The charges against Melendez were announced Monday by Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy.

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

The arrest video captured Melendez beating Dent during a Jan. 28 traffic stop in Inkster. Melendez said he found cocaine on Dent, and the motorist was charged with drug possession as well as resisting and obstructing.

The resisting and obstructing charge was dropped, and Worthy on Monday said the possession charge also will be dismissed. Dent is expected in court Wednesday to have the drug charge officially dismissed before Judge David Groner, Miller said.

Dent has said he was racially profiled and officers used excessive force in the arrest. The arrest video was released by Dent's attorney, Greg Rohl.

"It's a great day for the legal system," Rohl said Monday in response to Worthy's announcement. "I would like to see others ... held accountable for their actions. Others stood by and did nothing or were complacent in trying to (frame Dent)."

But Worthy on Monday said she has completed her investigation and no further charges are forthcoming. She said she considered several pieces of evidence before making the decision to bring criminal charges.

In a statement Tuesday, Worthy said her office first learned about the video of Dent's arrest from a March 23 WDIV-TV (Channel 4) report.

A Jan. 30 warrant request contained a brief reference to a police car video, omitting the fact that it contained the arrest and alleged assault of Dent, Worthy said. The video was not presented to the warrant prosecutor.

But on March 17, a Wayne County assistant prosecutor reviewed the video, which then was seen a day later by Judge Sabrina Johnson. After viewing the video, the judge dismissed resisting and obstructing charges against Dent, Worthy said.

"Prosecutor Worthy was not made aware of the video until a week after the preliminary examination when she saw the WDIV report," the prosecutor's office said in the release. "These facts have no impact on the decision to dismiss the possession of cocaine charge against Mr. Dent and to charge Defendant William Melendez."

At a press conference Tuesday morning, Inkster Mayor Hilliard L. Hampton and Inkster City Manager Richard Marsh said they were taking action to make sure the incident would never be repeated.

"Now that Prosecutor Worthy has concluded her investigation, the city council has ordered the city manager, an attorney, to give a detailed response to the incident ... in writing within five days," Hampton said.

Marsh said other officers seen on the arrest and booking videos will be under scrutiny for their parts in the incident.

"The other officers will be investigated as well," Marsh said. "Being a police officer is an honor and an honorable position. We are fortunate to have many outstanding officers ... but I'm not going to tell you that our department is perfect. We still have work to do."

Marsh also praised the residents of Inkster for their response to the incident.

"The citizens were not happy with what happened, but demonstrated patience and cooler heads have prevailed in Inkster," Marsh said. "They allowed the process to take its course and handled a difficult situation responsibly. They protest without violence showed the rest of the country how it should be done."

Hampton and Marsh said they will offer no further comment on the incident, pending possible civil litigation.

Melendez was fired Wednesday from the Inkster force, and Highland Park Chief Kevin Coney said Monday that Melendez would have no active role with his department pending the outcome of the criminal case against him.

Referring to a separate videotaped police encounter, Worthy on Monday 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.

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

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