Detroit, MI – A former Michigan State Police (MSP) trooper been convicted of involuntary manslaughter for the Taser-related death of a 15-year-old boy who tried to flee from him on an all-terrain vehicle (ATV).
The fatal altercation occurred in August of 2017, while then-MSP Trooper Mark Bessner and his partner were pursuing 15-year-old Damon Grimes as he tried to evade them on his ATV, the Detroit Free Press reported.
Operating ATVs on Detroit’s residential streets is illegal, WXYZ reported.
Trooper Bessner, who was riding in the passenger seat of the patrol vehicle, said that Grimes fumbled with his waistband twice during the chase, and that he believed the teen was reaching for a gun.
The trooper responded by deploying his Taser, striking him.
Grimes then slammed into a parked pickup truck, and suffered fatal blunt-force trauma injuries to his head, WXYZ reported.
During his trial, the 44-year-old former trooper testified that he initially believed he was doing the right thing by tasing Grimes during the chase.
"I thought it was at the time," Bessner said. "I know now, it was a terrible decision."
He said he was shocked when he realized Grimes didn’t have a weapon, and said he did not realize the suspect was a teenager when he deployed his Taser.
"All I could think of was this family lost their son," Bessner testified. "And all I could think of was my daughter and what they must be going through. I can't bring Mr. Grimes back and I can't fix my family."
Bessner resigned from the MSP in the wake of Grimes’ death, and was ultimately charged with second-degree murder, the Detroit Free Press reported.
Prosecutors said he had also previously been reprimanded for misusing his Taser and violating department procedures.
During his first trial in 2018, the jury failed to reach a unanimous verdict, the Detroit Free Press reported.
A second jury convicted him of the lesser charge of involuntary manslaughter after one day of deliberations.
“Today, former trooper Mark Bessner was found guilty of involuntary manslaughter in the death of Damon Grimes of Detroit,” the MSP said in a press release on April 17, according to WXYZ.
“The Michigan State Police appreciates the careful deliberation of the men and women of the jury and we are grateful to the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office for their dedication to justice,” the statement read. “We send our sincere condolences to the family, friends and supporters of Damon Grimes."
The MSP had previously denounced the former trooper’s actions, and said he “undisputedly acted outside M.S.P. policy and training,” The New York Times reported.
“The jury made a strong statement today about the defendant’s criminal actions,” Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy said in a statement. “I want to thank this jury, and it is my earnest hope that this verdict brings some small semblance of peace to the Grimes family.”
Grimes’ family spokesperson Oliver Gantt said that the family was “somewhat satisfied” by the verdict, The Detroit News reported.
“I know they want him to have some jail time,” Gantt added. “It’s a sense of justice.”
The teen’s mother, Monique Grimes, has also filed a $50 million lawsuit against Bessner, according to The Detroit News.
A hearing in that matter is scheduled to take place on Wednesday.
Bessner was taken into custody after the jury rendered its decision, and is due back in court for sentencing on Thursday, according to WXYZ.
He faces up to 15 years in prison if convicted, the Detroit Free Press reported.