Former Michigan trooper charged with murder in teenager's death

By Ed White
Associated Press

DETROIT (AP) — A former Michigan State Police trooper was charged Wednesday with second-degree murder in the death of a Detroit teenager who crashed an all-terrain vehicle after being shot with a stun gun.

Mark Bessner had no “legal justification” to fire his Taser from a moving patrol car while trying to stop Damon Grimes from driving an ATV on a city street, said Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy.

“He created a very high risk of death,” Worthy said, explaining the second-degree murder charge. “He may not have meant to kill him.”

Damon, 15, was driving an ATV at 35 to 40 mph when he crashed on Aug. 26. An autopsy revealed remnants of a stun gun were in the boy’s hair. He died from multiples injuries.

Attorney Richard Convertino entered a not-guilty plea for Bessner and says they’ll face the case “head-on.”  A magistrate set bond at $1 million for Bessner when he appeared in court Thursday.

Bessner deferred to his attorney and didn’t speak in court. Convertino asked that his client be released without posting any money, but Magistrate Bari Blake Wood disagreed.

Bessner quit the state police in September.

Besides murder, he also is charged with involuntary manslaughter. Since the teen’s death, state police no longer conduct high-speed chases in Detroit unless they’re investigating a major crime.

State police spokesman Lt. Mike Shaw said: “We fully support” the charges.

“I want to apologize on behalf of my department, the Michigan State Police, to the Grimes family,” Shaw said. “We don’t teach this type of thing in our department. Bessner acted totally on his own.”

Damon’s mother, Monique Grimes, said Bessner’s partner that day also should be charged.

“They both stand for the state police. One could have prevented the other. ... I just want justice for Damon,” Grimes said.

Detroit Police Chief James Craig said a Taser typically would not be fired from a moving car and would be used only when an officer believes a suspect is resisting. He acknowledged that he’s had to ease concerns in the community after Damon’s death, although the case involved the state police.

“These things cause a lot of public angst. ... I am the face of policing in the city of Detroit,” Craig told reporters.

The teen’s family has filed a $50 million lawsuit.