Officials: ATV chase death investigations almost done

George Hunter
The Detroit News

Investigators are close to wrapping up two separate probes into an incident in which a Michigan State Police trooper allegedly used his Taser to stop a 15-year-old ATV rider who crashed and died after being electrocuted with the stun gun.

Damon Grimes was killed after the Aug. 26 encounter with a trooper who had ordered him to stop his ATV, which he was illegally driving in the street, state police officials said. When Grimes didn’t stop, police say, the trooper deployed his Taser. Grimes crashed into a flatbed truck and died.

The trooper, identified by a police source as Mark Bessner, was suspended the next day for allegedly violating department policy by using his stun gun while in a moving vehicle. Bessner was previously accused of excessive force in two separate lawsuits, although the cases against him were dismissed.

In the wake of the incident, investigations were launched by state police and Detroit police. On Friday, officials with both agencies said the respective probes are winding down.

“We’re waiting on forensic analysis to come back from evidence items, although I won’t say what those evidence items are,” Detroit police Chief James Craig said.

“The investigation is moving along like we’d hoped it would but when you talk about forensic analysis, those things don’t come back in a few days,” Craig said. “It takes time.”

The chief added Wayne County prosecutors have been working with Detroit police investigators on the case.

State police spokeswoman Shanon Banner said the MSP investigation into the incident also is coming to a close. She said an internal investigation will be conducted after the criminal probe is finished.

“Throughout this investigation we’ve been working closely with the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office, maintaining almost daily contact with one of their assistant prosecutors,” Banner said in a statement.

“Our investigation is nearly complete and today we began officially submitting it to their office,” Banner said. “There are still some pieces that are outstanding that we continue to work on, and we fully expect the prosecutor’s office may request additional follow-up once they have the opportunity to review our reports.”

The incident has sparked several protests, and prompted state police to temporarily pull troopers out of the 9th Precinct to avoid stoking animosity in Grimes’ neighborhood. Troopers had been assigned to the precinct as part of the state’s Secure Cities Partnership initiative.

Geoffrey Fieger, attorney for Damon’s family, has filed a $50 million lawsuit against the state.

State police changed the agency’s policy in the city after the incident to match Detroit’s edict that officers refrain from high-speed chases unless they’re pursuing someone perceived to be a danger to the community. Prior to the change, state police routinely chased traffic violators and others committing nonviolent crimes.

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Twitter: @GeorgeHunter_DN