A Michigan police officer nicknamed “Robocop” has been arrested and fired from his job after being caught on dashcam video with another officer brutally beating an unarmed suspect during a traffic stop in the Detroit suburb of Inkster.
Officer William Melendez, a former Detroit cop who was investigated for excessive force, planting evidence and in the fatal shooting of an unarmed man while on the force there, was charged with two counts of assault to do bodily harm, the Wayne County Prosecutor announced April 20.
According to WDIV, Melendez has also been charged with misconduct in office and mistreatment of a prisoner.
The video of Melendez and other officers arresting Floyd Dent, a 57-year-old black father and Ford auto worker with no criminal history, has gone viral, led to protests and has drawn comparisons to the beating of Rodney King.
The charges against Dent were dropped, WDIV reports. The incident occurred January 23 and the investigation began in March after the video surfaced.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Melendez Put Dent Into a Chokehold & Hit Him in the Head 16 Times
According to police, Dent was was stopped for disregarding stop signs, the Associated Press reported. Police said he resisted arrest and threatened them. They also say a bag of crack cocaine was found in the car. The police report indicates that Dent arose the officers’ suspicion when he was spotted at a motel that is in a high-drug activity area. But Dent says he just stopped to visit a friend.
The dashcam video shows Dent pull over to the side of the road. He opens his door and is pulled out of the car by two officers, who shove him to the pavement. Dent, one the ground, is grabbed around the neck by one of the officers, identified in the police report as Melendez, while the other officer, an unidentified auxiliary officer, tried to handcuff him. Melendez can be seen punching Dent in the head 16 times while still holding him around the neck.
He is then hit with a stun gun three times by another officer and eventually dragged, bloodied, onto the hood of Melendez’s patrol car, where he can be heard saying “Why are you beating on me like this. I ain’t do nothing.”
Dent’s attorney, Gregory Rohl, told The Detroit News, “It’s simply an outrage. I haven’t seen the likes of this since Rodney King.”
According to The Associated Press, Melendez claims the situation escalated when he thought he saw Dent reaching for a weapon. There were no weapons found in the car. Melendez also said during the struggle on the ground, Dent bit him on the arm. Dent denies biting Melendez. The Detroit Free Press reports that police said Dent gave the officers a blank stare as if on narcotics when they asked him to show his hands and then said “I’ll kill you.” Dent also denies those accusations, and the audio of those moments is not available. Dent told the Free-Press the officer yelled, “Get out of the car! I’ll blow your head off!”
“I wasn’t resisting arrest,” Dent told the Associated Press. “When someone is beating your face, you’re going to protect yourself.”
Charges of fleeing and resisting arrest were dropped by a judge, the AP reports.
Dent suffered an orbital fracture and bleeding on the brain, his attorney told The Detroit News. Dent spent three days in the hospital.
2. He Fatally Shot an Unarmed Man in 1996 While He Was on the Ground
The first controversial incident of Melendez’s police career came in 1996 when he shot an unarmed man who was laying on the ground, according to the Voice of Detroit, an independent newspaper in the city.
According to a federal lawsuit, Melendez and his partner shot Lou Adkins 11 times after a traffic stop.
The Detroit Free Press reported that the city paid Adkins’ family $1 million in the wrongful death suit, but Melendez kept his job and was not criminally charged.
3. He Was Accused of Planting Evidence & Has Been Sued At Least 12 Times
Melendez left the Detroit force in 2007, and joined the Inkster department in 2010.
According to the Detroit Free Press, Melendez has been sued at least 12 times in federal court during his time as a cop in Detroit and Inkster.
In 2013 he was sued by Deshawn Acklin, who accused him of assault during a drug arrest. Acklin, who was handcuffed and on the ground, said in the lawsuit that Melendez, “began to choke him and beat him until he was unconscious.”
Melendez was charged in 2004 along with seven other Detroit officers with lying, falsifying reports and planting evidence, according to The Associated Press. He was acquitted of the charges. Prosecutors alleged he and another officer were the “masterminds” of a conspiracy to “run roughshod over the civil rights of the victims.”
4. Protesters Have Called for Justice for Dent
Dozens of protesters gathered outside of the police department demanding the officers involved be fired, according to the Detroit News. They briefly entered the building and were led back outside by Police Chief Vicki Yost. She told the protesters, “I am encouraging people to let the investigation run its course. Then we will act accordingly.”
The incident is being investigated by Michigan State Police.
A former Inkster chief, Hilton Napoleon, was at the protest and said he tried to fight dysfunction in the department while he was in command, according to the newspaper. He told the Detroit News he thinks the department should be disbanded:
I would disband this department and turn it over to the sheriff’s department. You do have good officers out here but you have enough bad apples to poison the system. You have officers out here that need to go turn their badges in right now. I said that when I was chief.
One protester, Rev. Charles Williams II, told the newspaper that Inkster is “the new Ferguson,” saying “We need the Inkster police department to restore the trust to the residents and to those who have to drive through. I didn’t feel safe coming to Inkster today. I don’t feel safe right now.”
5. The Charges Against Dent Were Dropped
Charges of resisting arrest were dropped in March when the video was released. But the drug charges were not dropped until April 20, after Melendez was arrested.
His attorney, Gregory Rohl, told the Free Press that the video shows officers planting the crack cocaine. Dent turned down a plea agreement during a March 25 court appearance. He did not test positive for drugs after the arrest, and has passed numerous drug tests while working for Ford, according to his attorney.
Dent said an innocent man doesn’t plead guilty.