Vigil for Tasered teen turns into protest

Sarah Rahal
The Detroit News

A vigil for a teen killed when his ATV crashed after he was Tasered by a state police trooper stopped traffic and evolved into a protest as hundreds gathered Wednesday night on Detroit’s east side.

“This is what happens when we gotta get organized,” said Ned Zeek of New Era Detroit. “We gotta get organized down here. ... we ain’t just gonna let (expletive) come to the hood and do whatever (expletive) they wanna do. Ya’ll gotta believe that ... we gotta be free!”

The crowd shouted in agreement. “That’s right,” someone said, punctuating Zeek’s speech. “It’s not right; it’s not right,” others yelled. Others cried out: “Power to the people!”

“The only way we gonna be able to beat it is if we organize,” Zeek shouted.

More than 200 people, from youngsters and teens to senior citizens, gathered outside Embassy Coney Island on Gratiot on Wednesday for what began as a quiet vigil.

An hour into the vigil,which began at 8:30 p.m., ATVs amassed on Gratiot in honor of Damon Grimes, the teen who died when he drove his ATV in the street at Rossini and Gratiot on Saturday. Police say Damon, 15, refused a Michigan State Police trooper’s order to stop. The trooper deployed his Taser and the teen hit a parked truck and was killed.

About 20 ATVs were turning onto East State Fair when a police car drove up to the scene, lights flashing and sirens on. The crowd surged and two males jumped on the squad car with the officers inside. Other police cars soon followed and ordered the crowd to back up and get off the street. The crowd heeded the orders.

The crowd raised their arms and chanted. Some help up cellphones to capture the moment.

“They jumped on the car. It was insane," said Ania Jameson, 16, a friend of Damon’s who came to the vigil. "He was a sweetheart, such a good kid and as you can see by who showed up. Everyone loved him."

Police did not make any arrests or issue tickets, Detroit police Sgt. Nicole Kirkwood said.

Candles, teddy bears and balloons filled the corner of Rossini and Gratiot. Balloons spelling "DaeDae" hung from the fence.

Some of those gathered for the vigil dressed in red, white and black, Damon’s favorite colors.

His sister came on her bright red Yamaha ATV Kodiak 700, wearing a tribute shirt saying #DaeDaeWorld.

Dezajanai, 17, said it’s normal for people in Detroit’s east side to ride ATV’s in the street. She and Damon use to ride all the time together.

"We're here tonight for him. To send him off right," said Dezajanai. "This is my ATV, he just got his a month ago."

Detroit News Staff Writer Mark Hicks contributed to this report.