Detroit officers charged with assault are released

Oralandar Brand-Williams
The Detroit News

Two Detroit police officers charged Thursday with assaulting citizens in two unrelated incidents have been released from jail after a 36th District judge modified and lowered their bonds.

Detroit officers Lonnie Wade, 65, and Richard Billingslea, 25, were released late Thursday on personal bonds. Hours earlier the officers were each being held on $50,000, 10 percent bond and ordered to wear GPS tethers if released. The new bond does not require them to wear the electronic monitoring devices.

Both are scheduled for probable-cause conferences Jan. 2 and preliminary examinations Jan. 8

Prosecutor say Wade, who was off-duty at the time of his alleged crime, assaulted a man at about 8:40 p.m. Oct. 10 at the Meijer grocery store in Detroit. Wade allegedly believed the man – 23-year-old David Bivins – was shoplifting, but he reportedly had a receipt for the items. A video recording of the beating went viral.

Wade was charged with assault with intent to do great bodily harm less than murder and felonious assault. He faces up to 10 years in prison and a fine of $5,000.

Billingslea was arraigned Thursday on charges in connection with the assaults of Michaele Jackson, 39, and D’Marco Craft, 26, both of Detroit, at a Mobil gas station in Detroit. He was charged with great bodily harm, aggravated assault and misconduct. He faces up to 10 years in prison and a $5,000 fine.

Billingslea allegedly became involved in a verbal confrontation at 1:40 a.m. May 31 at the gas station in the 17000 block of Harper. The argument escalated and Jackson was pepper-sprayed and beaten.

Craft recorded the incident on his cellphone, which was confiscated by another officer who responded to the incident. The phone was disposed of in a trash can in the store, authorities say. Jackson was taken to a local hospital for treatment.

Also on Thursday, former Michigan State Police trooper Mark Bessner was arraigned on charges in connection with the death of a 15-year-old Damon Grimes in August. Bessner was given a $1 million cash surety bond during his arraignment.

A call to Bessner’s attorney Friday to determine whether the former state trooper was released from jail was not returned.

Bessner has been charged with second-degree murder and two counts of involuntary manslaughter in the Aug. 26 death of Damon Grimes on Detroit’s east side. A not-guilty plea was entered on Bessner’s behalf Thursday at his attorney’s request.

State police officials said Grimes did not obey an order to stop driving his ATV illegally in the street. In violation of department policy, Bessner, a passenger in his squad car, used his Taser on Grimes, who then crashed into a parked flatbed and died from blunt-force head trauma.

State police suspended Bessner because he allegedly deployed his stun gun from inside a moving vehicle, a violation of department policy. He later resigned.

Two other state troopers — Ethan Berger, who drove the police cruiser, according to police sources, and another who allegedly mishandled evidence at the crime scene — have been suspended. According to the state police, they were not charged this week, but an internal investigation would be conducted.

Bessner is scheduled to be back in court Jan. 4 for a probable cause hearing and Jan. 11 for a preliminary examination. If convicted, he faces up to life in prison.

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