Ex-Inkster officer William Melendez sentenced to 13 months to 10 years

By Halston Herrera - Digital news editor, Kevin Dietz - Reporter

INKSTER, Mich. - A judge on Tuesday said a former Inkster police officer engaged in "cowardly acts of barbaric behavior" and excessive force when he punched a driver in the head 16 times during a traffic stop.

“You were so into your bravado that you forgot the eye of justice was recording you," Judge Vonda Evans told William Melendez. “You knew better. You were better trained that any of those officers out there. You were more experienced.”

Watch: Judge Evans speaks before sentencing

Evans was referencing the dashcam camera that captured the beating on Jan. 28, 2015. The Local 4 Defenders were the first to air it, which sparked an investigation that led to the resignation of the then-Inskster police chief and assault and misconduct in office against Melendez.

“They put me out of my own car and beat me,” Dent Local 4 in an interview. “I have to live with that every day.”

According to police reports, Melendez and his partner began following Dent's Cadillac when he failed to stop at a stop sign and wouldn't pull over when the patrol car turned its lights on.

"When the overhead lights came on, I looked and said, "Wow. Are they stopping me?' So, I just kept going until I realized that they were really stopping me," Dent said.

The video showed Dent opening his door and putting his hands out. Police said Dent yelled "I'll kill you" at the officers and resisted arrest. Dent said he struggled because he feared for his life and was trying to get out of a choke hold.

"I think they was trying to kill me," Dent said. "I mean, I was on my last breath. I kept telling the officer, 'Please, I can't breathe."

Dent was driving on a suspended license and police said they found a bag of crack cocaine under a seat. After the incident, Dent was charged with assaulting a police officer, resisting arrest and possession of cocaine.

Dent passed a lie detector test and his fingerprints weren’t found on the baggie of white powder that was found in his car. The charges against him were eventually dropped.

Dent settled with the City of Inkster for $1.4 million in May.

Melendez went to trial in November and was convicted on the assault and misconduct charges. He was acquitted on a strangulation charge.

"When your posse arrived, they joined you in a take down, kicking and Tasing and ultimately throwing Mr. Dent into a windshield of a police car," Evans said.

Judge Vonda Evans

She added that Dent was "dead wrong" for driving without a license and not following the rules of the road. But she said Melendez didn't do his job and played a game.

 "You will pay for two things: not being an example of greatness, which I know that you are from all the letters of support, awards and commendation that you have shared with this court, and resorting to cowardly acts of barbaric behavior that led you to be convicted of these crimes," Evans said. "I can only punish your conduct, but only you and God can change your character."

She sentenced him to 13 months to 10 years on an assault with intent to do great bodily harm charge and 90 days on a misconduct in office charge. He will be given 85 days credit for time served.

Melendez apologized to Dent, the community and his own wife and son.

“To Mr. Dent and his family, I am truly sorry if this has caused undue hardships in your life," he said.

Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy released the following statement:

"Improper, predatory, and illegal police conduct will not be tolerated. The vast majority of police officers are hard working law enforcers. Former officer Melendez was not one of them."

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