A mistrial was declared on Wednesday in the second-degree murder trial against former Michigan state trooper Mark Bessner, for the death of a 15-year-old black teenager, Damon Grimes (pictured), in August 2017
A mistrial was declared on Wednesday in the second-degree murder trial against former Michigan state trooper Mark Bessner, for the death of a 15-year-old black teen.
Bessner, who is white, shot Damon Grimes with a Taser from a moving patrol car in 2017. He told jurors that he feared the teenager had a gun, but he was wrong.
After being Tased, Grimes crashed into a pickup truck and died.
Judge Margaret Van Houten entered the order on the third day of deliberations after the jury reported another impasse.
Jurors also had the option of convicting Bessner of involuntary manslaughter, but they couldn’t reach a unanimous decision to convict or acquit.
Bessner quit the force following the incident, and has been sued for wrongful death.
Former State Trooper Mark Bessner (pictured) told jurors that he feared Grimes had a gun, but he was wrong; Grimes died after Bessner Tasered him from the window of a moving patrol while he was riding at ATV on a city street in Detroit; Bessner is shown testifying on Thursday
The teen was fleeing from Michigan State Police after popping a ‘wheelie’ on a Detroit street in August of 2017 when his ATV hit a parked truck and flipped over, killing him.
Then-trooper Bessner was charged with second-degree murder after firing his Taser at Grimes through the window of his vehicle during the pursuit.
Bessner testified in his own defense at the trial. He told jurors on Thursday that he ‘absolutely’ believed the teen was armed and was ‘shocked’ to learn there was no gun.
He insisted that he believed Grimes was reaching for a gun in his waist while he and a state police partner pursued the boy.
State Police policy prohibits firing a Taser from a moving vehicle.
After being Tased, Grimes crashed the ATV into a parked pickup truck, it flipped over on him, and he died of blunt force trauma to the head; Bessner is shown here (circled left) in the initial aftermath of the ATV crash that killed Grimes
The crash scene is shown here; The ATV struck the rear bumper of a parked pickup truck
Grimes crashed the ATV he was driving and died after he was twice struck by Bessner’s Taser, which is fired like a gun and is intended to immobilize people.
‘It was a terrible tragedy,’ Bessner said on Thursday, his voice breaking, ‘and all I could think of was that this family had lost their son. All I could think of was my daughter, and what they must be going through.’
Grimes’ only offense appeared to be driving the ATV on a city street.
Bessner’s partner made a U-turn and began pursuing him when the ATV veered toward their car.
‘He had slowed down and he had looked back several times,’ Bessner testified. ‘There was one very, very crystallizing moment where his left hand reached down towards his waist.’
He later said he ‘absolutely’ believed Grimes had a gun and that his life was in jeopardy.
‘It was a deadly force situation, is what I thought, and I used the tool I had available to me,’ Bessner said.
After Grimes crashed the ATV, Bessner said he and his partner tried to help the teen. He also searched the victim for a gun.
‘I was shocked that he didn’t have a weapon. I was shocked at the magnitude of what had happened,’ Bessner testified.
Prosecutors said Bessner, who quit the state police after the incident, created a very high risk of death with the Taser.
State police officials supported the second-degree murder charge, saying Grimes’ death was a crime.
Bodycam video released in April revealed harsh remarks Detroit officers made in response to Grimes’ condition, leading up to his death.
The footage, which does not include dashcam video from the pursuit vehicle that Bessner was riding in, shows local cops arriving on the scene within 30 seconds.
‘He’s got a pulse, and he’s breathing. He’s unconscious,’ Bessner said into his police radio as he hunches over Grimes on the pavement.
‘He slowed down. We tased him, and he crashed out,’ Bessner added over the radio later.
‘His pulse is weakening, what’s our ETA on EMS,’ says one officer over the radio as Detroit Police officer Kimberly Buckner pulled up in her patrol car.
‘His pulse is weakening because he was on that f**kin’ thing, and you chased his a**,’ Buckner muttered to herself as she stepped out of her vehicle, her body camera recording.
‘Don’t run from the State Police, you’ll get f**ked up,’ another unidentified officer on the scene comments.
An ambulance arrives about seven minutes after the crash, one minute faster than the city average for life-threatening incidents.
Grimes is seen on an ATV that appears to be the same one he died on while fleeing cops
As the ambulance leaves Detroit Police officer Aubrey Wade (far right) dismisses the idea of providing a police escort to the hospital. ‘Hell no. For him?’ says Wade
Wade (far right) said he had ‘no patience for bulls**t’ in a conversation after Grimes was transported; Wade was reassigned to non-patrol duty after for his harsh remarks
Officer Emily Stephenson’s body cam shows her approaching fellow Detroit Police officer Aubrey Wade to ask if they should give the ambulance an escort to the hospital.
‘Hell no. For him?’ Wade responded, noting the ambulance has lights and sirens, and escorts are reserved for police. ‘If an officer was shot, we’ll do that.’
As the ambulance departed, Buckner approached Wade and commented that Grimes’ mother needed to be at the hospital.
‘That’s a grown-ass man,’ he said of Grimes, a 6-foot-1, 234-pound teenager.
‘No, he’s 15,’ she replied. ‘He’s 15 years old.’
‘He’s a bad-ass 15,’ Wade said, later adding: ‘No sympathy at all for bulls**t. Motherf**ker wanna be grown, ya act grown, you gotta f**kin’ deal with it.’
Bessner is seen center in court in December, when he was charged with second-degree murder; A spokesperson for the prosecutor’s office says Bessner will be retried, with the next hearing scheduled in the case for November 7
Wade, a 22-year veteran, was pulled from his position of neighborhood resource officer after the Detroit Free Press reported his remarks on April 13. He was reassigned to a non-patrol duty.
Grimes was transported to St. Johns Hospital where he was pronounced dead on arrival. An autopsy concluded Grimes died of blunt force head trauma.
He was about to begin ninth grade at Michigan Collegiate in Warren. Grimes’ family has filed a wrongful death suit.
A spokesperson for the prosecutor’s office says Bessner will be retried, with the next hearing scheduled in the case for November 7.