Detroit pastors and Detroit Police chief James Craig speak out against the alleged tasering of Damon Grimes while he was riding an ATV, causing him to lose control resulting in a fatal crash. Clarence Tabb, Jr., The Detroit News
Community activists and residents called Friday for swift prosecution of a Michigan State trooper in the death of teenager Damon Grimes, who crashed his ATV after being chased and shot with a stun gun.
In a peaceful but spirited protest outside Detroit Police headquarters at Third and Michigan near downtown, about 55 protesters chanted “No Justice No Peace” and carried signs that read “Black Lives Matter” and “Justice 4 Damon Grimes.”
The Detroit Police Department is investigating the Aug. 26 incident in addition to the Michigan State Police.
The protest was led by three local pastors: the Rev. David Alexander Bullock, the Rev. W.J. Rideout and the Rev. Maurice Hardwick.
Bullock called on Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy to “expeditiously” bring charges against the trooper. State police have said the trooper pursued Grimes after he ignored an order to stop, then shot the teen with a Taser. The boy ran over a curb on his ATV and struck the rear of a pickup.
“(Grimes) should be going back to school but he’s going in the ground this week,” Bullock said. “Enough is enough. We want justice for Damon Grimes. This is not an isolated incident of the Michigan State Police performing high-speed patrols in urban areas.”
Bullock added that state police “should be held accountable for idiotic police stops” in African-American communities.
“They have the unmitigated gall and gumption to not follow the rules of the local law enforcement in whatever jurisdiction they are serving,” he said. “They have decided across the state to supersede, to disrespect, to deny and to step on the policy and the procedures of the law enforcement agencies.”
On Thursday, MSP officials changed the agency’s pursuit policy in Detroit, barring troopers from chasing motorists for traffic violations or misdemeanors.
Explaining the revision, state police Lt. Mike Shaw said, “Since 40 percent of our pursuits happen in the Detroit area, this a good way to see if restricting the policy to felonies only makes a difference, and if it would be effective statewide.”
Rideout said “what (the trooper) did was very disrespectful.” He also called for charges against the trooper’s partner, who Rideout said did nothing to stop the incident.
The trooper, identified by a police source as Mark Bessner, has been placed on paid leave during the investigation. According to court records, Bessner was previously accused of using excessive force in two lawsuits, though both cases were dismissed.
The ministers and several protesters met briefly with Detroit Police Chief James Craig after the chief held a news conference about his department’s investigation.
Craig said his department was “on the ground immediately” after learning about the incident.
Craig said the investigation will be timely and thorough. The chief added that if his department confirms that a Taser was used in the pursuit, “now we’re talking about the possibility of a criminal act.”
The chief also expressed support for a proposal by state Rep. Sheldon Neeley, D-Flint, that would require state troopers to follow local police department policy and procedures for high-speed pursuits, calling it a “great first step” in reducing the danger from such chases.