A Michigan cop infamously come to be known as “officer Robocop,” has been sentenced to up to 10 years in prison for the beating, choking and tasing of 57-year-old Floyd Dent, which occurred during a traffic stop in January of last year.
Inkster Police said Dent was found in possession of cocaine, had refused to show his hands, and made a verbal threat towards officers. Results of a polygraph test, however, told a different story – as did a dash-cam video of the incident, which showed Dent receive 16 blows to the head, a kick to the arm, and multiple taser strikes.
“I’m lucky to be living,” Dent said following the assualt. “I think they were trying to kill me, especially when they choked me. I was on my last breath. I told them, ‘Officer please, I can’t breathe.’”
Police said they followed Dent’s car into a suburban Detroit neighborhood known for drug dealing and pulled him over for failing to come to a complete stop at a stop sign.
Police claimed Dent was trying to flee in his car, but the dash-cam footage clearly shows Dent comply with officers by pulling over and opening his car door in order to address them. At no point does the footage show any attempt at retreat, or any threatening actions.
“Next thing I know, he took out his gun. He’s talking about blowing off my head,” Dent said. “Then he grabbed me out the car and started beating on me. I just couldn’t believe it.”
In the footage, Dent can be seen bleeding profusely from his head as officers escort him to a patrol car.
Watch the raw footage:
Dent was arrested on numerous charges, including driving with a suspended license, resisting a police officer, simple assault and battery of a police officer, and possession of crack cocaine – which police allege was found in the car.
In lieu of the video, as well as the polygraph test Dent aced, the officers’ claims came under suspicion. Eventually, all charges against Dent were dropped and he filed a civil lawsuit.
He settled that suit with the city of Inkster for $1.4 million in May, but after the city couldn’t seem to find the money, officials came up with a solution: a tax hike that required residents with at least $40,000 worth of property to pay roughly $130 each.
According to Mayor Hilliard Hampton, Inkster’s liability insurance policy allows only for payouts of above $2 million – and although the city had a surplus and was out of debt at the time of the incident – a consent agreement it has operated under for several years restricted tapping the general fund to finalize the settlement. Residents were given until Aug. 31 to pay up.
The Inkster Police officer seen in the footage applying the chokehold to Dent is Ex-Detroit Police officer William Melendez – who was known as “Robocop” in that department.
While working in Detroit, Melendez was indicted along with 16 other officers in 2003 for the charges of planting evidence, falsifying reports, and stealing seized cash and property. A jury found Melendez not guilty, but he was again facing claims of planting evidence and falsifying reports in connection with Dent’s cocaine charge.
Melendez, who was fired by Inkster police in April of last year, began his criminal trial in May on the charges of misconduct in office, assault with intent to do great bodily harm, and assault by strangulation. In November, he was convicted of the two former charges and had his bond revoked, forcing him to stay in jail.
He faced up to a 10 year sentence, and on Tuesday, was sentenced to 13 months to 10 years in prison with Assistant Wayne County Prosecutor Robert Donaldson calling the beating “brutally excessive.”
Before his sentencing, Melendez apologized to Dent and his family, but Wayne County Circuit Court Judge Vonda Evans, who handed down the sentencing, had a few choice words for the officer.
“You utilized your Dirty Harry tactics and used excessive force to arrest him,” Evans said. “You were so into your bravado you forgot the eye of justice was watching and caught this, the dash cam that was designed to protect you ended up being what convicted you.”
Melendez’s sentencing guidelines called for a minimum sentence of 29 months to 57 months in prison, but Evans had the authority to tweak it. She ruled that his maximum punishment can be 10 years in prison but that he can be eligible for parole after serving 13 months.
“You did not fulfill your job,” Evan added. “Today you pay for it.”
In a statement read to the court by a family member, Dent said “[Melendez’s] actions as ‘Robocop’ were unjustified, reprehensible and made good police officers the subject of public contempt and ridicule.”