Surprising news from Michigan: On Jan. 28, police in the Detroit suburb of Inkster were caught on dashcam dragging an African American man from his car, putting him in a chokehold, then repeatedly beating and tasering him because, they say, he was resisting arrest. We were surprised to learn that there’s a Detroit suburb named “Inkster.”
The rest of the story is entirely too familiar: The video has no sound, because the police camera’s microphone was either not working or turned off, so we’ll just have to take the cops’ word for it that the driver, Floyd Dent, shouted “I’ll kill you!” as they approached his car.
We’ll also have to take the cops’ word that Dent bit the arm of William Melendez, the officer who was choking Dent and punched him in the head 16 times. Melendez subsequently sought no medical treatment for being bitten, and didn’t photograph the supposed bite marks, which you’d suppose would be evidence you’d want to document if a suspect assaulted you so violently.
Also, a baggie of crack cocaine was found in the car’s passenger seat. Dent insists it was planted, and his attorney, Greg Rohl, says there is unreleased video showing officers planting the drugs. Officer Melendez just happens to have been charged in federal court with planting evidence and falsifying police reports in 2003. But Melendez was acquitted, so there’s no reason whatsoever to think he might have done something untoward in January.
Floyd Dent is 57, has no criminal record, and is a retired auto worker who worked at Ford for 37 years. He also was tested for drugs at a hospital after his arrest; the tests were negative. On the other hand, he is black, has a shaved head, and was driving a Cadillac at night, so he had to be guilty of something that called for a beatdown:
Police said they first saw Dent’s car through binoculars while watching an area known to have drug activity. They followed Dent’s car and said he didn’t make a complete stop at a stop sign. Police said that when they turned on their flashing lights, Dent didn’t immediately pull over.
“When the overhead lights came on, I looked and said, ‘Wow, are they stopping me?’” Dent said. “So I just kept going until I realized that they were really stopping me.”
Dent said he didn’t try to flee police, and the video shows his Cadillac driving at a consistent speed until he pulled over.
The video shows Dent pulling over and opening his car door (possibly not a good idea for people wanting to survive traffic stops, unless he’d been told to get out of the car — pity there’s no audio). Police point their guns at Dent and then pull him from the car, throw him to the ground, and Melendez immediately puts him in a chokehold. Police claim that Dent refused to put his hands behind his back; he says he thought he was being choked to death and tried to pull Melendez’s arm off his throat.
After viewing the dashcam video, a judge dismissed the charges of fleeing, assault, and resisting arrest; the only remaining charge against Dent is for possession of cocaine. Dent was offered a plea deal that would result in no jail time, only probation, and eventual expunging of the charges, but he refused it, saying he wouldn’t plead guilty to something he didn’t do.
According to the Digitas Daily video, Officer Melendez is currently assigned to desk duty, and Inkster police have requested that the Michigan State Police investigate the incident — so there’s that, at least.
Get ready for the usual rightwing response, as every detail of Floyd Dent’s past and his behavior during the arrest is dissected to prove that he absolutely had every one of those 16 punches to the head coming to him.