A black Detroit man testified in criminal court on Thursday against the white police officer charged with beating him during a traffic stop, a day after he reached a $1.4 million settlement in his civil lawsuit against the city of Inkster.
William Melendez, a former police officer with the Detroit suburb of Inkster, is charged with misconduct and assault in the January video-taped beating of Floyd Dent, one of a number of cases that has fueled national debate on race and policing.
Melendez was fired from the police force after the release of the footage where he is seen punching Dent in the head.
In a preliminary hearing in the case against Melendez, Dent said he had memory loss and other damage from the beating.
“As I got out the car I had my arms out, the officer grabbed my arms and threw me to the ground,” Dent testified before Judge Sabrina Johnson, who will decide whether there is enough evidence for the case to proceed to trial.
Wayne County Assistant Prosecutor Robert Donaldson added an additional charge of strangulation against Melendez.
“He choked me so hard I couldn’t breathe,” said Dent, who works for Ford.
If convicted, Melendez faces up to 10 years in prison.
During questioning by Donaldson, Dent said he was aware that he did not have a valid driver’s license at the time of the traffic stop.
“That doesn’t give the right to victimize another black man,” said Dent’s attorney, Gregory Rohl, during a recess.
Rohl also confirmed that the city of Inkster, which has a majority black population, but a majority white police force, reached a settlement agreement in the amount of $1.375 million this week.
“I think there was an intent to get Inkster to heal,” Rohl said of the city’s decision to settle the civil police brutality case out of court.
(Editing by Fiona Ortiz and Sandra Maler)