back to top

Michigan Police Beat Unarmed Black Man During Traffic Stop

Inkster police officers hit Floyd Dent repeatedly in the head and used a Taser three times after the 57-year-old man was pulled over for running a stop sign.

Posted on

An unarmed black man was dragged from his car by Inkster, Michigan, police officers, put in an apparent chokehold, beaten, and tased during a traffic stop that was caught on the police car's dashboard camera on January 28, his lawyer said.

"I saw the video a couple of days ago," Floyd Dent told BuzzFeed News, adding that he initially hesitated to re-live the incident. "I broke out in tears looking at it."

The footage shows police officers pulling over Dent's 2011 Cadillac after he ran a stop sign. Two police officers approached Dent's vehicle with their guns drawn and as the 57-year-old man opened the car door, the officers pulled him out and forced him to the ground.

In a preliminary examination of Officer William Melendez on March 18, he stated that he approached the car with his gun drawn because he was believed the driver may flee on foot.

The second officer tried to handcuff Dent. The officers said Dent refused to put his hands behind his back but Dent said he was trying to release the officer's grip from around his neck.

"I was on my last breath," Dent told Local Four Defenders. "I kept telling the officer, 'Please, I can't breathe.'"

Police claim Dent yelled "I'll kill you" to the officers, but all of the officers' microphones were either turned off or not working.

When backup officers arrived to the scene, Dent was Tasered three times in the thigh and stomach as he was handcuffed. All 10 officers involved in the incident are white.

"As a white male in America, I'm offended by what I saw," Dent's lawyer, Gregory Rohl said during the March court hearing. "The brutality of that beating was inexcusable."

Dent was hospitalized for two days to treat the injuries to his face and head. An officer who claims Dent bit him refused medical attention and did not have his injuries photographed.

Dent argues the police planted the drug at the time of the arrest. An Inkster district court judge dismissed the assault and resisting arrest charges, but Dent is due in court next week for a hearing on the cocaine charge.

Rohl told BuzzFeed News he is confident the drug charge will be dropped.

Officer Melendez was charged by the U.S. Attorney's Office for planting evidence and falsifying reports in 2003 when he was a Detroit police officer. A jury found Melendez not guilty.

Rohl said that a portion of the video, which has not been released to the public, shows police planting the cocaine.

"You can definitely see the officer searching the vehicle and coming out with empty hands," Rohl said of the video. "In a matter of 2 to 3 minutes he digs into his pockets, pulls out a plastic bag while someone covers the camera for a second."

Dent's blood was tested after the arrest and no drugs were found in his system.

Inkster police and Michigan state police have opened separate investigations into the incident. Melendez is working a desk job pending their outcome.

Rohl said he has asked the Department of Justice to open a federal investigation into the incident.

"We feel more comfortable with a federal investigation," Rohl said. "We want a more detached perspective."

Inkster police chief Vicki Yost did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Read the full police report

Read the March 18 preliminary examination of officer Melendez.

Mary Ann Georgantopoulos is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York.

Contact Mary Ann Georgantopoulos at maryann.georgantopoulos@buzzfeed.com.

Got a confidential tip? Submit it here.