Former state trooper issued $1 million bond for role in fatal ATV crash

By: Brendan Losinski | Advertiser Times | Published December 22, 2017

 Former Michigan State Police Trooper Mark Bessner is facing charges of second-degree murder and two counts of manslaughter for his alleged involvement in the death of 15-year-old Damon Grimes.

Former Michigan State Police Trooper Mark Bessner is facing charges of second-degree murder and two counts of manslaughter for his alleged involvement in the death of 15-year-old Damon Grimes.

Photo by Deb Jacques

 Mark Bessner, accused of firing a Taser at a fleeing teen that resulted in a deadly crash, was arraigned in 36th District Court in Detroit Dec. 21. He was issued a $1 million bond.

Mark Bessner, accused of firing a Taser at a fleeing teen that resulted in a deadly crash, was arraigned in 36th District Court in Detroit Dec. 21. He was issued a $1 million bond.

Photo by Deb Jacques

DETROIT — Former Michigan State Police Trooper Mark Bessner has been charged in connection with the fatal ATV crash that killed 15-year-old Damon Grimes, of Detroit.

At 5:30 p.m. Aug. 26, according to Michigan State Police, Bessner and a fellow state trooper, in a patrol car, observed a four-wheel all-terrain vehicle being driven by Grimes in the area of Reno Street and Fairmont Street in Detroit. When the troopers attempted to stop Grimes for a traffic violation — reckless driving — Grimes fled on the ATV and a short pursuit ensued.

According to the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office, Bessner, who was seated in the passenger seat of the patrol car at the time, deployed his Taser at Grimes while the ATV was moving approximately 35 to 40 miles per hour. Grimes lost control of the vehicle after being struck by the Taser and crashed into a parked truck in the 14500 block of Rossini Drive, according to the Prosecutor’s Office.

He was transported to a local hospital and pronounced dead at 5:58 p.m. of blunt trauma to his head, according to the Wayne County Medical Examiner’s Office.

Bessner has been charged with second-degree murder, which carries a maximum penalty of any term of years up to life in prison; one count of involuntary manslaughter-misdemeanor manslaughter, which carries a maximum penalty of up to 15 years in prison; and one count of involuntary manslaughter-gross negligence, which carries a maximum penalty of up to 15 years in prison.

“On behalf of the Michigan State Police, I offer my sincerest apologies to the family of Damon Grimes,” stated Col. Kriste Kibbey Etue, the director of the MSP, in a press release. “Troopers are not trained to do what Bessner did and we condemn his actions. His conduct was criminal in nature and deserving of the charges (on Dec. 20) 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.”

The charges came after both an internal investigation by the Michigan State Police and one conducted by the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office.

Bessner, who had been suspended on Aug. 28, resigned Sept. 22, while two other Michigan State Police employees were suspended in connection with the incident, according to Lt. Michael Shaw, of the Michigan State Police.

The incident resulted in a public outcry to investigate how a minor traffic violation ended in a deadly crash. The crash was a key factor in the Michigan State Police recently changing its policies on when to initiate a high-speed pursuit; it declared that risky vehicular pursuits will no longer be allowed for traffic violations or misdemeanor offenses.

“This is a case that evokes a lot of passion in the community,” said Bessner’s lawyer, Rick Convertino. “This is a facts-focused case, and we’re looking for a fair jury of Wayne County residents to hear it. … We (his defense team) are going to put everything we have into this case.”

Bessner was arraigned on Dec. 21 in 36th District Court before Judge Bari Blake Wood. Bessner entered a plea of not guilty and was issued a $1 million bond.

“I don’t know what his state of mind is at this time,” said Convertino. “I can only imagine what he’s thinking after being given a $1 million bond. I didn’t expect that.”

A probable cause conference is scheduled for 8:30 a.m. Jan. 4, and a preliminary examination is scheduled for 9 a.m. Jan. 11, both at the 36th District Court before Judge William C. McConico.