MELBOURNE, FL — The subject of a controversial beating from 2011 has died following his traumatic brain injury. A mumbling, elderly dementia patient was kicked to the ground and beaten by an officer who feared that his life might be endangered by the man’s ‘aggressive’ walk towards him. The officer was later found to have tampered with his dash-cam, but remains on the Melbourne Police Department to this day.
The incident occurred on October 7, 2011. Police received a call that a disgruntled senior citizen had grown upset and had flashed a pocketknife to another person.
Melbourne Officer Derek Middendorf arrived on the scene to settle the dispute. There he confronted Albert Flowers, then 66 years old, who was speaking unintelligibly from a distance. He approached Officer Middendorf, who was standing in front of his cruiser.
When Mr. Flowers was a few feet away, Officer Middendorf abruptly charged towards him, delivering a powerful front kick to his chest. Video shows the officer’s powerful boot sending the gray-haired man sailing backwards, landing him on the ground.
The officer then dove on top of Mr. Flowers, pummeling him with a series of punches and blows to the head. Mr. Flowers flailed his arms in a desperate attempt to deflect the attack. Middendorf then flipped Flowers onto his belly and continued to wrestle with him, striking him again in the head and abdomen.
One minute into the confrontation, a second officer walked up with a taser drawn. As Mr. Flowers lie face-down with a cop on his back, he received an electric jolt to the face, reported Florida Today.
Mr. Flowers was subdued and arrested, and charged with assault on a law enforcement officer and resisting arrest. The violent initiation of force was explained in the arrest report, which stated that Flowers “walked towards him in an aggressive manner” and that he “refused to stop at a safe distance,” therefore justifying the kick to the chest and beating.
Further investigation revealed that Officer Middendorf had intentionally tampered with the recording equipment in his vehicle prior to confronting Mr. Flowers. He had attempted to disable the dash-cam system entirely, but only succeeded in cutting out the audio. Unbeknownst to Middendorf, the camera was still recording and the video file would later be extracted from the hard drive.
Following the investigation, Middendorf received a written “reprimand” from the department — but only for the video tampering, not for the beating. He was not fired nor charged with any crime. Middendorf was Melbourne’s “Officer of the Year” in 2008.
“It’s clear [Officer Middendorf] tried to destroy all the video in this case,” remarked attorney Paul Bross, representing Mr. Flowers. “He thought he had turned off the camera, and that’s why he acted the way he did.”
With the fallout of Middendorf’s tampering, a revelation that the battered man suffered from dementia, and the public’s visceral reaction to the video, prosecutors were pressured into reducing the charges against the now brain-injured Mr. Flowers, and eventually dropped them completely.
Despite the attempted coverup, officials supported Middendorf’s use of excessive force, and said the beating was justified since the officer suspected that Mr. Flowers might have had a weapon. Mr. Flowers did have a pocketknife in his pocket, but his hands were empty the entire time he interacted with police. His “resistance” to Officer Middendorf was purely a defense against an unprovoked attack.
Officer Middendorf stated, “[I] had to protect myself in fear he [Flowers] was going to attack me. Not knowing if he was armed or not, I struck the defendant in the face to distract him.”
Let the video tell the story:
UPDATE: After struggling with health issues for the past few years following his brain injury, Albert Flowers passed away on July 9th, 2014, at the age of 69.
A family lawsuit following the incident resulted in the courts backing the police. Both a district court and a federal appeals court supported the officers’ use of force. Officer Derek Middendorf continues to work for the Melbourne Police Department.
Melbourne Police Department (Florida)
Phone: (321) 608-6731