State trooper charged in Detroit teen's fatal ATV crash testifies about call to union rep

Mark Bessner accused of firing Taser at teen while in moving vehicle


DETROIT – Former Michigan State Police trooper Mark Bessner was in court Tuesday to testify at a pre-trial hearing about the death of 15-year-old Damon Grimes in Detroit. 

Grimes was killed Aug. 26, 2017 while riding an ATV on Detroit's east side. State police officers were in pursuit of Grimes -- claiming reckless driving -- after he failed to stop when the troopers turned their emergency lights on.

Grimes crashed the ATV into a pickup truck and later died at St. John's Hospital.

Damon Grimes
Damon Grimes

Bessner is accused of firing his Taser at Grimes, striking the teen shortly before he crashed. He was charged with second-degree murder and involuntary manslaughter. 

Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy said Bessner was a passenger in a patrol vehicle when he fired his Taser out of the moving vehicle. Bessner was suspended by state police for breaking protocol by firing a weapon out of a moving vehicle. He resigned in September.

A jury trial is scheduled for Oct. 22.

Pre-trial testimony

On Tuesday, Bessner answered questions about a man he called after the incident happened on Aug. 26. He said he called Trooper Jay Harrison Morningstar, who was known as a "CISM," which stands for "critical incident stress manager." He was one of Bessner's union representatives. 

"Jay had told me, and several other troopers, on multiple occasions that whenever there is a critical incident to call him because of this recent statute that was passed, whereby he was a trained critical incident stress manager and everything he said to (me) and heard from me would be privileged based on his training as this 'CISM,'" Bessner said. 

Prosecutor: Did you believe your telephone conversation was privileged pursuant to the statute and pursuant to what Trooper Morningstar had represented to you previously?

"Absolutely," said Bessner. 

Moreover, Bessner said he met with Morningstar and had a conversation with him in a closed room at the detachment where troopers gathered after Grimes' fatal crash. He considered it another privileged conversation. 

He also spoke with Morningstar on the phone the next day, still believing these were privileged conversations with a CISM. 

"I wouldn't have talked to him but for that belief," Bessner testified. 

Watch all of Bessner's testimony in the video above. 

RELATED: Detroit police officer demoted over explicit tirade following teen's fatal ATV crash

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