Melbourne man made homeless by police raid
City offering compensation for apartment damages from tear gas
MELBOURNE, Fla. – A Melbourne man says that eight days after police released tear gas in his apartment while looking for a suspect next door, his unit is still a health risk and uninhabitable.
Justin Mende, 30, said a Melbourne police officer woke him by banging on his door shortly after 6 a.m. on Nov. 13.
"She informed me that I needed to evacuate my apartment for my own safety," Mende told News 6 Tuesday. "I asked her if I could get dressed and she looked at me real calm and said, 'Not unless you want to die.'"
Police said in the other apartment of his Pineapple Avenue duplex, domestic violence suspect 25-year-old Michael Dudley-Palmer pulled a knife on a woman and was barricaded inside.
Police staged a standoff, waiting several hours before shooting gas into both units.
"They destroyed the apartment," Mende said. "For four cans of tear gas to be shot into a studio apartment, that's very excessive."
And in this case, it was unnecessary, because police discovered Dudley-Palmer had escaped from the unit. Neighbors told News 6 on Tuesday he took off before officers even showed up.
"Another neighbor told one of the officers that he wasn't even in there. No one listened to us," Paula Johnson said.
A biohazard cleanup crew working at the apartment told News 6 the tear gas might linger for two months.
Mende went in over the weekend.
"You can't breathe. It makes your eyes water to the point where you can't see," he said.
City officials said on Tuesday that they will help pay for cleanup, offering Mende $1,500 for his losses.
Mende's mother said the family will think over the offer.
"My son was an innocent bystander and ended up losing everything in his life," Michelle Knott said.
Mende said on Tuesday that he was staying on a friend's couch in Merritt Island.
"It's hard, you know, not having anything anymore and not having anywhere to go," he told News 6.
Melbourne police later found Dudley-Palmer and arrested him Friday. He's being held in the Brevard County Jail without bond.
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