Others allegedly roughed up by trooper charged in teen's death
Detroit — The former Michigan State Police Trooper charged with second-degree murder for the death of a Detroit teen last summer "punitively" used his Taser against others civilians in other incidents in Detroit, according to the Wayne County Prosecutor's Office.
The prosecutor's office is seeking to include details of those other incidents in the upcoming Aug. 20 trial for Mark Bessner before Third Circuit Court Judge Margaret Van Houten. Prosecutors have filed motions with Van Houten asking her to allow the evidence into the trial.
Bessner is charged in the death of 15-year-old Damon Grimes.
The teen ran his ATV into a parked truck Aug. 26 after losing control of it after Bessner tased him near Gratiot and Rossini Drive during a chase. The teen's death has set off a series of community protests that called for Bessner to be charged.
Grimes did not make any "aggressive motions or gestures" during the chase, according to court filings by the prosecutor's office. Michigan State Police policy bars troopers from using Tasers from moving vehicles.
According to court records from the prosecutor's office reviewed by The Detroit News, Bessmer "punitively" used his Taser against other civilians on July 14, April 12, 2016, and Sept. 17, 2014. He was "intimately" involved in another "punitive tasering" incident Aug. 18, eight days before he chased Grimes, according to the court records.
Bessner was also the subject of lawsuits that were filed in Wayne County Circuit Court on allegations of brutality. He was suspended Aug. 28 in the wake of the Grimes case and resigned Sept. 22.
In the Aug. 18 incident, Bessner stopped a man on an ATV at Seven Mile near Mound Road on Detroit's east side. During that stop, Bessner is accused of "forcibly" removing Michael Laidler from a car.
According to court records, a dash camera reportedly shows Bessner removing Laidler from the vehicle and telling him: "I'm going to get you out of this car. If you give me any trouble, I'm going to mess you up, man."
Laidler, according to the court records, was "neither acting aggressively nor using profanity or oppositional language before or after being pulled from the car." Laidler, who was allegedly drunk, repeatedly told Bessner "I don't want to fight."
Laidler, according to the court records can be heard saying on police dash cam video, "I didn't even resist. Can I get out the car? I don't want to fight."
He is also heard on the dash cam saying "don't talk to me like I'm crazy. I'm not worried about your Taser (expletive). What are you stopping us for?"
According to the records, Bessner and his partner, Ethan Berger, are accused of tasing Laidler.
Laidler later said to Berger: "I wasn't resisting. I got hit in the eye. ... He hit me in the nose. I wasn't doing nothing wrong. If I'm in handcuffs, why would you try to fight me in handcuffs?"
In another incident, Bessner is accused of chasing Forrest Harvey who was riding an ATV on July 14 at Hoover near Seven Mile on the city's east side after Harvey appeared to do a "wheelie."
After the suspect stopped, Bessner left his vehicle and told Harvey to put his hands up and then tased Harvey within two seconds, according to the court records in the motion filed by the Wayne County Prosecutor's Office.
The police dashboard camera "does not show Harvey acting aggressively" toward Bessner, according to the court records.
Harvey can be heard on the police in-car video screaming and then saying: "Why did you shoot me? He shot me. He shot me." Bessner told Harvey: "Shut up ... you're under arrest right now. You blew it ... you're not trying to flee with your wheels up. You were doing wheelies on Seven Mile, you idiot ... trying to get away."
Harvey tells Bessner: "I never resisted ...I was shutting the bike off."
Bessner resigned from the Michigan State Police before he could be disciplined for his actions toward Harvey and Laidler.
In two other incidents, Bessner is accused of:
- Chasing a handcuffed man, Timothy Rogers Hawk on April 12, 2016, on the 14100 Mapleridge Street near Peoria on Detroit's east side. Bessner allegedly tased Hawk twice after he re-apprehended the man. Hawk, according to the court records, was still handcuffed when he was tased. Bessner was disciplined by the State Police for his actions.
- Repeatedly tasing Michael Jerome Crittle during a chase on Sept. 17, 2014, at Fenkell and Ferguson that ended at West Warren and Trumbull on Detroit's west side. Bessner is accused of tasing Crittle four times after the chase had ended, including once after Crittle was handcuffed. Bessner also was disciplined for his actions toward Crittle.
According to the prosecutor's office, "these other acts show (Bessner) intended to punish Grimes for opposing his authority and that the tasering was not an accident. These acts further show (Bessner) systematically used Taser to punish those who opposed him."
Efforts to reach Bessner's defense attorney, Richard Convertino, were unsuccessful Thursday.
Michigan State Police officials released a statement last December condemning Bessner's action in the Grimes incident. They did not comment Thursday on the allegations against the former trooper in the latest accusations against him.
“Troopers are not trained to do what Bessner did and we condemn his actions," said Col. Kriste Kibbey Etue, director of the State Police. "His conduct was criminal in nature and deserving of the charges today authorized by Prosecutor Kim Worthy. Neither my apology nor these criminal charges will bring Damon back, but I hope they provide some amount of solace to his family.”
Van Houten has set a June 22 hearing date for a set of motions in Bessner's case.