Trial begins for former Inkster police officer

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Opening statements began Tuesday morning in the trial of former Inkster police officer William Melendez. He's charged with felony assault and misconduct in office for the January beating of Floyd Dent.

William Melendez is on trial for misconduct and assault of Dent, a man pulled over and detained on drug possession charges and later beaten by officers. The incident was caught on dash cam video and released to the media.

On Wednesday, the violent video was shown to a jury. But does it show Melendez was just doing his job or committing a crime? A jury will decide Melendez's future after the trial. Wayne County Prosecutors say the video speaks for itself.

"He went over the line," Assist. Wayne County Prosecutor Robert Donaldson said. "Police officers can use reasonable force. There was nothing reasonable."

The trial started Wednesday with opening statements as Melendez is charged with abusing his power, assault by strangulation, and assault with intent to do great bodily harm. Jurors were shown photos of Dent's injuries and, of course, the beating which showed a bloodied Dent on the hood of a patrol car and at the police station.

"A picture is worth a thousand words - but video tells the story," Donaldson said.

However, Melendez's attorney, Jim Thomas, said the video doesn't tell the whole story.

"It is a reflection of what the camera saw, may be a different point of view of what the video shows," Thomas said.

What's not in dispute is what the video shows: A traffic stop on January 28th in which 57-year-old Dent was thrown to the ground and punched in the face and head 16 times.

Thomas says Dent was driving on a suspended license, suspected of buying drugs, and running a stop sign. Dent was initially charged but they were all dropped and Melendez was charged instead.  Despite that, Thomas says Dent could have been a danger to the officers that night.

"Victim or not - victim or not - we have to judge what it was that he was out there doing," he said.

On the stand Wednesday was Tawana Powell, the Michigan State Police Lieutenant in charge of the case she was brought in to investigate in March once Dent's attorney went to the media with video evidence of the beating. She was asked to read from the Inkster Police Department's own policies.

"It says choke holds are strictly forbidden," she said.

One of the very things she says Melendez did to Floyd Dent.

"From the time Mr. Dent was removed from the car and placed on the ground there was an immediate choke hold placed on him," she testified.

The city of Inkster already reached a $1.4 million settlement with Dent.

Dent will be called to testify at the trial, which is expected to take two weeks. It's unknown if Melendez will take the stand.