The unarmed motorist who was beaten during a traffic stop in a Detroit suburb took the stand Thursday, repeatedly telling jurors, "I did not struggle," when police tried to arrest him.
Floyd Dent, 58, was repeatedly punched, kicked and Tasered during the Jan. 28 incident in Inkster in a case so severe that the officer, William Melendez, is on trial.
Melendez, who was fired from the force in April, faces up to 10 years in prison for misconduct in office, assault with intent to do great bodily harm, and strangulation.
Dent, a longtime worker for Ford Motor Co., testified on the second day of the trial that Melendez, 47, beat and choked him so hard he passed out for a minute.
"Melendez started beating me in the head. I told him — I was begging him to stop — 'I can't breathe,'" Dent said, stammering. "He was choking me so hard, I couldn't catch my breath."
During the trial's opening on Wednesday, the nine black jurors and seven white jurors were presented the dashcam video and two different versions of events by the prosecution and the defense, according to NBC affiliate WDIV.
"What I want you to look for in the video is what happens after Officer Melendez stops. Does Dent submit? ... he didn't submit to putting his hands behind his back, which was all that was necessary," defense attorney James Thomas told jurors.
But Dent's attorney, Robert Donaldson, argued that the case represents a larger concern about the abuse of power that law enforcement exert over citizens.
"We give them enormous power," Donaldson said during his opening statements. "We give them the power to take our freedom. We give them power to take our lives. There are limits on that power."
The video shows Melendez dragging an unarmed Dent out of his car, putting him in a chokehold and striking him repeatedly in the head during the traffic stop. Police said he rolled through a stop sign and had a suspended license.
"Why you beating on me like this?" Dent can be heard asking after he was thrown onto the hood of a police cruiser.
Dent said Thursday that he was delivering alcohol to a friend when the traffic stop occurred, and that he didn't stop immediately because he was looking for a well-lit place to pull over.
John Zeileniewski, an auxiliary officer who was partnered with Melendez during the stop, testified that Dent was being "very aggressive" that night and said to him, "I will kill you."
Dent was initially charged with driving on a suspended license, possession of cocaine and assaulting or resisting a police officer. But those charges were dropped. Dent has maintained police planted the cocaine on him.
He settled in May for $1.4 million with the city of Inkster. Amid the public outcry in the case, the police chief resigned, two officers were suspended and Melendez was fired.
The prosecution is set to continue its case Monday.