Fighting back tears, a Detroit man and longtime auto worker with no criminal history, described how Inkster police officers dragged him from his car one night in January, choked him, beat him and Tasered him during a traffic stop that was caught on patrol car video.
“He was beating me upside the head,” Floyd Dent, 57, told a horde of reporters and TV crews during a press conference at his attorney’s office Wednesday afternoon, as tears trickled his cheeks. “I was trying to protect my face with my right arm. I heard one of them say, ‘tase the M…F. ‘”
The Jan. 28 incident was caught on police video cameras and is making national news It shows Inkster police pulling over Dent in his 2011 tan Cadillac near South River Park Drive and Inkster Drive shortly before 10 p.m. The two officers approach with their guns drawn. As Dent opens the door, they pull him out and shove him to the ground. Dent does not appear in the video to be resisting arrest.
As he is on the ground, a police officer later identified as William Melendez has him in a choke hold, and is repeatedly pounding him on his head. A second officer is attempting to handcuff him behind his back, but Dent has his right arm up, trying to protect his face and head against Melendez.
Another officer arrives and kicks him, and then another officer Tasers Dent in the thigh and stomach as he is handcuffed. Dent, who has worked for Ford for 37 years, said he was hospitalized for two days for injuries to his face and head.
Police initially charged him with assault, resisting arrest, and possession of cocaine, insisting they found cocaine beneath the passenger seat of his Cadillac. Dent says police planted the drugs at the time of his arrest.
An Inkster district court judge, after reviewing the tape, tossed the assault and resisting charges, but Dent faces an April 1 hearing on the drug charge.
His attorney, Gregory Rohl, said during today’s press conference today that a close review of portions of the tape, not yet released publicly, show police planting the drugs.
Inkster Police Chief Vicki Yost did not immediately return Free Press calls. She has told other news media the incident is being investigated by Michigan State Police.
Rohl said Yost assured him shortly after the incident she would seek an outside investigation by state police. Rohl said he was notified Tuesday — nearly two months after the traffic stop — that an investigator had been assigned to the case.
Rohl said he would be meeting with Inkster city officials, as well as the police chief in early April to discuss a settlement. Rohl said Dent has not ruled out a civil rights lawsuit in federal court.
Police, Rohl said, targeted Dent because he is black man. The officers involved are white.
The tape appears to contradict official police reports of the incident.
According to the reports, officers began following Dent that night after seeing him stop at the Motown Inn, an area they claim has high drug trafficking. Dent says he stopped to visit a friend on the way home and took the friend a bottle of alcohol. .
Police said Dent, who had a suspended license, ran a stop sign and they turn on their overhead lights, but he drove a few more blocks before he pulled over.
According to police reports, Dent opened the driver’s door, then turned his body toward the interior of the car and appeared to be reaching for something in the console. The police said they demanded to see his hands, but he just turned to them with a “blank stare as if on a form of narcotic” and then said, “I’ll kill you.”
But the video shows the police officers walking up to the open door, then one immediately shoving the gun at Dent, then dragging him out onto the pavement. There is no audio. Dent says the police officer yelled, “Get out of the car! I’ll blow your head off!”
The police officer doing the choking claims Dent was biting him, although in police reports he acknowledges there were no bite marks and says that was due to several layers of clothing he was wearing.
One of the officers involved in the incident, William Melendez, has been accused of misconduct before, during his time with the Detroit Police Department. In 2004, Melendez was among eight Detroit Police officers acquitted in a federal trial for civil rights abuses, including planting evidence on criminal suspects.
The press conference was attended by more than a dozen protesters wearing T-shirts that read “Stop Police Brutality.” A protest is also planned April 1, the day Dent will be back in court on the drug charge.
Dent said he has been unable to work since the incident and that he has nightmares.
“I’m just getting emotional because of where I’m at now,” said Dent during the press conference. “The other day was the first day I looked at the video…I just can’t believe it.