WATCH: Detroit-Area Cop Found Guilty in Beating and Choking of Unarmed Driver

19 November 2015

A former Detroit-area police officer was found guilty Thursday of assault and misconduct in the bloody beating of an armed black driver during a traffic stop that was captured by a dashboard camera.

Wayne County jurors handed down the verdict in the case against William Melendez, who was charged in the January beating of 58-year-old Floyd Dent.

Police stopped Dent in the Detroit suburb of Inkster for disregarding a stop sign, and dashcam video from a police cruiser shows Melendez punching him 16 times in the head.

But it wasn’t until after WDIV-TV aired the footage in March that Melendez was fired and two of his colleagues were suspended.

Inkster later agreed to pay $1.4million to Dent, who suffered broken ribs, blood on his brain and other injuries.

The jurors found Melendez guilty of assault with intent to do great bodily harm, and of misconduct in office. They cleared him of a separate charge of assault by strangulation.

Melendez didn’t testify at the eight-day trial, but his attorney said the officer was justified in the assault because Dent was aggressive and resisting police.

Other officers and a criminal justice professor also testified that the beating was reasonable because Dent was resisting arrest.

But former Inkster Police Chief Vicki Yost, who was head of the police department at the time of the beating, said Melendez’s actions were unnecessary, based on the video.

It took a jury panel made up of nine African-Americans and two whites four hours spread over the two days to convict Melendez, reported NBC News.

Following Thursday’s hearing, Melendez was ordered to return to jail pending his sentencing, which was set for December 3. The former police officer faces up to 10 years in prison.

Floyd Dent has a long history of driving violations and was driving with a suspended license, according to evidence the defense presented at trial.

Defense attorney James Thomas told jurors that a urine test taken at the hospital suggested Dent had been using cocaine before the traffic stop. But Wayne County’s medical examiner, Dr. Carl Schmidt, testified that he didn’t believe that to be the case based on a negative blood test processed by state police.

Dent was initially charged with driving on a suspended license, possession of cocaine and assaulting or resisting a police officer, but those charges were later dropped.

At a pre-trial hearing held in May, Dent described the moment Melendez started choking him.

‘He came to the car, told me get out the car or he’ll kill me,’ Mr Dent said.

‘When I went to the ground, he started choking me… He choked me so hard, I couldn’t breathe. He started beating me on the right side of my head.’

When asked about the impact of the assault, Mr Dent said: ‘Sometimes I have a loss of memory. I can’t really think straight.’