After video surfaced of police in Michigan beating a man during a traffic stop, attorneys claim that additional video shows one of the arresting officers planting drugs inside the suspect’s vehicle.
Floyd Dent, a 57-year-old Detroit native, was pulled over by officer William Melendez of the Inkster, Michigan police department on Jan. 28, allegedly for failing to use a turn signal and disregarding a stop sign.
After being pulled over, Dent opened his door and put both of his hands out the window, telling The Guardian he did so because he, “wanted to let them know I’m unarmed.”
What happened next was captured on officer Melendez’s dashboard video camera.
The 46-year-old Melendez, thinking that Dent was reaching for a weapon, approached his car with a weapon drawn. While no audio exists of the events, Dent maintains that he was told by officers to step out of his car.
Upon opening his door, Dent was dragged out of his Cadillac, where he was immediately placed in a chokehold by Melendez, who proceeded to punch Dent 16 times in the face. Other officers came to the scene and piled onto Dent, including one officer who tased him three times. It all took place in 15 seconds.
After the violent arrest, which left Dent with four broken ribs, a fractured orbital and blood on his brain, police claimed officers found a package of cocaine underneath the passenger side of his car, and charged Dent with resisting arrest, assault, and possession of cocaine.
After viewing video of the arrest earlier this month, a district court judge tossed out all of Dent’s charges, except for the cocaine charge, which he will respond to in court on Wednesday.
But now attorneys for Dent, who tested negative for cocaine in a post-arrest drug test, say that careful inspection of a recently released video shows officer Melendez pulling the cocaine from his pocket before planting it in Dent’s car.
“I saw [an officer] with drugs in his hand, and I thought, ‘Look at them dirty dogs,'” Dent said about the arrest. “After that I just held my head down.”
The accusations that officer Melendez planted contraband on Dent carry extra weight.
Hilton Napoleon, a former Inkster police chief who resigned in 2014, said the allegations that officers planted evidence were commonplace during his three-year tenure as police chief, but that citizens were afraid to file complaints against the department.
“I tried to get them to come forward and make an official complaint … but they’re scared,” said Napoleon. “And rightfully so.”
This isn’t the first time Melendez has been accused of wrongdoing.
Over his career, Melendez has been named in a dozen federal lawsuits, accusing him of falsifying police reports, planting evidence, and killing unarmed citizens.
During his 16 years before his resignation from the Detroit Police Department, he garnered more complaints than any other officer. In 1996, Melendez and his partner shot and killed Lou Adkins, with Melendez allegedly shooting Adkins 11 times while he was on the ground. That case was settled $1.05 million.
Currently, Melendez has been taken off of street duty, pending an investigation by the Michigan State Police.