Melendez jury tours sites linked to motorist’s beating

Oralandar Brand-Williams
The Detroit News
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Inkster — Jurors in the trial of former Inkster police officer William Melendez took a driving tour Tuesday of key locations surrounding the January beating of motorist Floyd Dent.

Two white vans carrying the jurors spent about 25 minutes in the vicinity of Michigan Avenue and Fairbairn near the Inkster Police Department. None of the jurors got out of the vans.

Wayne County Judge Vonda Evans and lawyers in the case were in cars trailing the vans and also did not exit their vehicles. Melendez did not go on the tour.

The tour took them past the 25 Hour Liquor Store where Dent said he had bought beer and liquor for a blind friend before he was stopped. They also drove past the Motown Inn, the bus stop on the northwest corner of Michigan and Beech Daly, the Budget Inn, the east parking lot of the Pine Ridge Apartments on Oakland and ended the tour at 27301 S. River Park Drive.

After the jurors returned to court, Evans told them: “I let you see the scene of the alleged incident in question only to help you understand the evidence that was presented in court. You must not consider anything you learned from seeing the scene that was not covered by evidence admitted in the trial.”

Several clips of Melendez repeatedly hitting Dent, 58, a longtime Ford Motor Co. employee, after he was pulled over on the evening of Jan. 28, have been shown during the trial.

Melendez is charged with misconduct in office, assault with intent to do great bodily harm and strangulation, a 10-year-felony. The former officer denies wrongdoing. His defense attorney, James C. Thomas, said during opening statements Dent was being combative, saying “(Dent) had to be Tasered not once ... not twice” but three times.

Assistant Wayne County Prosecutor Robert Donaldson said Melendez “abused” his power as a police officer when he struck Dent in the head 16 times “for no apparent reason.”

Dent said he did not resist police efforts to arrest him.

Floyd and his attorney reached a $1.4 million settlement with the city over the incident.

On Tuesday’s field trip, jurors saw where police started following Dent and where he eventually was pulled over.

The issue of Dent’s manner of driving has come up during the trial. Dent said he swerved that night to avoid the rough road which, he said, has potholes. The officer in charge of the investigation, Michigan State Police Lt. Twana Powell, has testified she observed potholes in the area of Michigan Avenue where Dent drove.

Melendez will not take the stand. His attorney has rested his case.

One more witness is expected to be called before closing arguments begin Thursday.

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