It took nearly nine months and several petitions by the Detroit Free Press until Michigan State Police (MSP) and Detroit Police allowed the body camera and dash camera footage to be released showing the minutes leading up to and the hours following the tasing murder of Damon Grimes by MSP Trooper Mark Bessner. The 16 hours of recordings show the horror, outrage, and insensitive comments made by many officers on the scene. One video even recorded the moment of his death. Earlier this year, Bessner was finally convicted for his actions and now the family has received $12 million in a settlement to receive some final closure.
No amount of money will every repair the damage by this officer but the large amount shows just how at-fault officials actually were in the death of Damon.
“I am sad for the family; no amount of money is going to make up for it,” attorney Geoffrey Fieger said Friday. “But it’s a substantial enough of a settlement that it really sends a message to the citizens and the police that this kind of behavior is intolerable.”
After the settlement was announced, State Police spokeswoman Lori Dougovito released a statement apologizing to the Grimes family.
“Damon Grimes’ death is a tragedy that could have been avoided if not for the criminal and unforgivable actions of a former MSP trooper,” she said. “The MSP recognizes that while this monetary settlement does not change how this has affected the Grimes family, it may help to begin to bring some closure. The MSP sincerely apologizes to everyone impacted by this senseless act and we have prioritized working with our troopers and the community to avoid this from happening again.”
Last year, Bessner was charged with second-degree murder for tasering the teen on the ATV. In April, a jury convicted him of the lesser charge of involuntary manslaughter, despite the horrific nature of the incident.
“There can be no question that Mark Bessner knew that (he) was going to cause some serious harm to Damon Grimes,” assistant prosecutor Matthew Penney told jurors at the time.
After his conviction, Bessner was sentenced to 5-15 years in prison for death of the 15-year-old.
Oliver Gantt, a spokesperson for the Grimes family, said the family was “somewhat satisfied” with the verdict in April, reported mLive.com.
“I know they had hoped for more. For the most part, I think they got a little bit of closure. I believe the family can rest with that,” Gantt said.
As TFTP reported, Bessner attempted to force Grimes to pull his ATV off of the road by shooting his taser at him. The thoughtless and sadistic plan backfired when Grimes apparently seized and slammed into the back of a parked pickup truck—killing him.
Bessner’s lawyer defended the killer cop and said he was forced to make a split-second decision when Grimes refused to stop the ATV. Clearly, this was not the case as the teen posed no threat to anyone and was doing what teens all over the country do by riding an ATV in a neighborhood.
Bessner radioed in the incident. He said:
Give us priority…Chasing an ATV east on Rossini from Reno. It’s a red quad. Black male, black shirt…He’s got a pulse, and he’s breathing. He’s unconscious…He slowed down. We tased him, and he crashed out.
Grimes was riding an all-terrain vehicle on the street when Bessner, sitting as a passenger in the MSP squad car, fired his taser through the passenger window hitting Grimes who then lost control of his ATV and slammed into the back of a parked pickup truck.
Grimes was killed as a result of the traumatic brain injury he sustained during the crash. However, he did have a pulse for some time after the accident, but died on the scene and was pronounced dead on arrival at the hospital.
In the video compiled by the Detroit Free Press, some officers voiced insensitivity and others outrage during the teenager’s final dying moments. One officer, Detroit Police officer Kimberly Buckner can be heard saying, “His pulse is weakening because he was on that f*ckin’ thing,” after one officer radioed the uncertainty of whether or not Grimes had a pulse any longer.
Another officer reported to Buckner what the MSP Trooper (Bessner) had done to the boy, implying the horrific nature of their actions. He told her, “They f*ckin’ tased his ass while he was cruisin’.”
Other officers were not so understanding and failed to realize Grimes had just finished the 8th grade. An officer told Buckner, “That’s a grown-ass man,” he said of Grimes, who was a 6-foot-1, 234-pound teenager. She corrected him saying, “No, he’s 15…. He’s 15 years old.” The male officer remarked with what seems to be heartless indifference and disassociation. He said:
He’s a bad-ass 15…No sympathy at all for bulls**t. Motherf*cker wanna be grown, ya act grown, you gotta f*ckin’ deal with it.
Hardly an adult, Grimes was likely expected to make mistakes by the community and his family. Little did he likely suspect a cavalier rogue cop would taser him as he rode his ATV through the streets. There was some indication Grimes did not even know he was being pursued by the Michigan State troopers. The footage seems to indicate the patrol car’s emergency lights were not even on at the time he was tased.
Another reportedly insensitive comment made by a male officer serves to illustrate the us vs. the public mentality some cops who were on the scene apparently possess. He said:
Don’t run from the State Police, you’ll get f**ked up.
Buckner continued to be the voice of reason among the police officers. She can be heard whispering to fellow cops, “They tased his a** while he was driving…causing him to flip and crash.”
Tasing anyone from a moving vehicle is a violation of Michigan State Police policy. As a result, county prosecutor Kym Worthy originally charged Bessner with murder.
As one member of the community remarked in the days and weeks following the boy’s murder, “two mistakes were made that day.” It’s true, Grimes should not have been riding his bike on the road. And it’s also true Bessner should never have thought about deploying his taser from one moving vehicle to attempt to strike another person on another moving vehicle.
One action was a misdemeanor. The other was a deadly felony, allegedly committed by a man who should have been better trained, more understanding, and looking out for the safety of his 8th grade suspect. Either way, it’s a senseless tragedy which could have been avoided.