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Police brutality trial starts for ex-Inkster cop

The trial of former Inkster police officer William Melendez got underway in Wayne County Circuit Court Wednesday.

Melendez faces charges, including assault and misconduct in office, for beating motorist Floyd Dent during a violent arrest that was captured on dashcam video.

Prosecutors say that video clearly shows Melendez putting Dent in a chokehold and punching him repeatedly in the head, as a number of other officers quickly arrived on the scene.

“They hit him with tasers. They kick him. And when they’re done, they celebrate,” Assistant Wayne County prosecutor Bob Donaldson said.

Donaldson also accused Melendez of planting drugs in Dent’s car. “You might hear about drugs coming out of the car,” he said. “He’s [Melendez] in the car twice before those drugs appear.”

Dent, who had been pulled over for a traffic offense and was driving on a suspended license, initially faced resisting arrest and drug charges. Those charges have been dismissed.

But Melendez’s attorney James Thomas urged jurors to keep an open mind and not “rush to judgment” in the case.

“There may be a different view of what the video shows,” said Thomas, who said Dent was “driving recklessly” in a high-crime area, flung his door open violently, and made a gesture that officers could have perceived as threatening.

He said Dent had just bought and used drugs, something prosecutors insist there’s no evidence for.

Melendez’s trial is expected to last through next week.

Sarah Cwiek joined Michigan Radio in October 2009. As our Detroit reporter, she is helping us expand our coverage of the economy, politics, and culture in and around the city of Detroit.
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