INKSTER, Mich. (AP) — A police officer seen on video repeatedly punching a motorist in the head during a traffic stop was ordered to stand trial on assault charges Thursday, and the driver's lawyers announced a nearly $1.4 million settlement with a Detroit suburb over the beating.
A judge found probable cause to send William Melendez to trial after watching the video in her office and listening to the testimony of Floyd Dent, the 57-year-old man who was pummeled.
"He came to the car, told me get out the car or he'll kill me," Dent told Inkster Judge Sabrina Johnson.
"When I went to the ground, he started choking me," Dent added. "He choked me so hard, I couldn't breathe. He started beating me on the right side of my head."
The incident occurred in January but the public didn't know about it until WDIV-TV aired the police car video weeks later. The video shows Dent's head and shirt coated with blood.
"Sometimes I have a loss of memory. I can't really think straight," he said of the blows.
Melendez was fired as an Inkster officer but denies any wrongdoing. Defense attorney James Thomas suggested that unusual force might have been necessary because Dent opened the door as officers approached and made suspicious moves.
"Isn't it true the reason why you struggled and fought is you didn't want to be arrested again? ... Isn't it true you struggled because you knew there was cocaine in the car?" Thomas asked during cross-examination.
"No," Dent replied.
In response to questions from a prosecutor, he acknowledged that he was wanted for driving on a suspended license. Dent denied possessing or using drugs that day and has accused police of planting cocaine in his car.
A urine test at a hospital indicated drug use, but a blood sample tested by state police was negative, prosecutor Robert Donaldson said.
Thomas tried to get Dent to explain in detail what he was doing in the hours before the incident. But the judge said most of the questions weren't relevant.
Melendez's initial appearance in Wayne County Circuit Court is scheduled for June 10.
Separately, the city of Inkster reached a $1.37 million settlement in a civil lawsuit alleging excessive force, said Nicholas Bennett, an attorney for Dent. He said the deal just needs a signature from a Wayne County judge.
"It will give Floyd some money while he's trying to get back on his feet," Bennett said. "Floyd said he'd give it all up if this didn't happen to him."
Inkster Mayor Hilliard Hampton told The Detroit News: "The city wants to put this behind us."
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(Photo: Todd McInturf/The Detroit News via AP)