Ex-state trooper found guilty of lesser charge in Detroit teen's ATV crash death

Mark Bessner found guilty of involuntary manslaughter

Mark Bessner in court (WDIV)
Mark Bessner in court (WDIV)

DETROIT – A jury has found former Michigan State Police trooper Mark Bessner guilty of the lesser offense of involuntary manslaughter.

Bessner was charged with second-degree murder in the death of Damon Grimes in 2017. Grimes, 15, was killed when his ATV crashed into the back of a parked vehicle Aug. 26, 2017 on Detroit's east side. 

Police said Bessner shocked Grimes with a Taser during a high-speed chase while he was riding the ATV. Grimes crashed and died from blunt force trauma.

Bessner fired the Taser from the passenger side of his partner's moving patrol vehicle. This was against state police protocol which prohibits officers from firing weapons from a moving vehicle.

This was the second trial for Bessner after a hung jury was declared in the first trial last year. After the jury's verdict was read Wednesday, Bessner was denied bond and remanded to jail. His sentencing is scheduled for May 2.

After the verdict, Michigan State Police released this statement:

Today, former trooper Mark Bessner was found guilty of involuntary manslaughter in the death of Damon Grimes of Detroit. 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. We send our sincere condolences to the family, friends and supporters of Damon Grimes.

Related: Judge rules MSP trooper doesn't have to testify at Mark Bessner's trial

Dashcam video and security surveillance video from a nearby business show the chase and crash. 

The prosecution team said Bessner didn’t have to use the Taser. The shock caused Grimes to crash the ATV and suffer a fatal head injury.

“This Taser was deadly force. The question for you ladies and gentlemen is to determine: is it reasonable to use a Taser on somebody, to use deadly force against somebody in that circumstance? Obviously the answer is 'no.'” 

Meanwhile, Bessner’s attorney told the court he used the Taser for self-defense because he was scared for his life.

“This is a case about facts. It’s critical. It’s critical that you put that aside and you analyze the facts of this case. Why would he deploy a Taser before he stopped? Because he thought his life was in danger,” the attorney said.

But the prosecution team didn’t agree, saying, "No yells, no screams, no gasps, no grunts -- nothing you would expect from somebody faced with death.”

The defense rested its case Tuesday without Bessner testifying in his own defense. That’s a major change from the first trial when he was very emotional on the stand, explaining what happened that day. 

The first trial for Bessner ended in a mistrial with a hung jury this past October

Damon Grimes

About the Authors:

Nick joined the Local 4 team in February of 2015. Prior to that he spent 6 years in Sacramento covering a long list of big stories including wildfires and earthquakes. Raised in Sterling Heights, he is no stranger to the deep history and pride Detroit has to offer.

Dave Bartkowiak Jr. is the digital managing editor for ClickOnDetroit.