WATCH: Police Release Video of Michigan State Police Trooper Tasing Teen on ATV

Former Michigan State Police trooper Mark Bessner, left, stands over the unconscious body of Damon Grimes in Detroit on Aug. 26, 2017. This image is a video frame grab from Detroit Police body cam footage. Pixilation of Grimes’ body was embedded in the video file by Michigan State Police.

As 15-year-old Damon Grimes lay dying in the middle of Rossini Drive last August, Michigan State Police Trooper Mark Bessner crouched over his body.

“He’s got a pulse, and he’s breathing. He’s unconscious,” Bessner said into his police radio, adding later, “He slowed down. We tased him, and he crashed out.”

Grimes had been driving about 35 mph on an ATV when Bessner — a passenger in a moving patrol car — fired his stun gun at the teen during a chase on Detroit’s east side.

Grimes slammed into the back of a parked truck and flew off his ATV. The impact of the crash ripped gashes into his forehead, both cheeks and upper lip and dislocated his skull. Doctors pronounced him dead on arrival at St. John Hospital.

Bessner, who resigned from his job amid a criminal investigation, has been charged with murder.

To better understand what happened the evening of Aug. 26, the Free Press used the Michigan Freedom of Information Act to request extensive records related to the crash. It received almost 11 hours of footage captured by cameras mounted in patrol cars, on nearby businesses and worn by Detroit Police officers, who also responded to the incident.

The Free Press also obtained almost 16 hours of audio recordings from police radios and phones as well as more than 600 pages of documents and more than 500 photos. Michigan State Police took six months to provide those records, which were heavily redacted. For example, State Police withheld all footage captured from the camera in Bessner’s squad car, and also blurred the video of Grimes.

Still, the video and audio files that were turned over by MSP show elements of the chase and its aftermath from dozens of angles and perspectives with candid, real-time comments provided by police officers seeing the events unfold in front of them.

Seen and heard in the materials are:

Security camera video showing the final seconds of the chase

Emergency lights on top of the patrol car start flashing 24 seconds after the crash

Bessner acknowledging using the stun gun on Grimes as he rode the ATV

Unfiltered talk from officers including one who says “Don’t run from the State Police, you’ll get fucked up.”
Communities across the nation are equipping officers with body cameras to document police contacts with the public. Detroit Police began wearing them in 2016 but little footage from their cameras has become public — until now.

The chase is on

“Give us priority,” Bessner is heard saying into a police radio. “Chasing an ATV east on Rossini from Reno. It’s a red quad. Black male, black shirt.”

A security camera mounted on the Embassy Coney Island restaurant at the corner of Gratiot and Rossini was pointed at the parking lot, but in the background, it showed a view of Rossini where Grimes’ ATV appears followed closely by a State Police patrol car. Just as the ATV exits the camera frame, it bounces back into the frame after striking a parked Ford F-150 pickup. The security camera footage didn’t include sound, but police cameras did.

“He flipped,” Detroit Police Officer J. Williams said before quickly reporting the accident over his radio.

Williams and his partner, Officer Cameron Boersma, pulled up about 20 seconds after the crash. As they stepped out of their police cruiser, Bessner was bent over Grimes, who lay in the middle of the street beside the pickup, his overturned ATV nearby.

Michigan State Police were patrolling in area that day as part of the Secure Cities Partnership, an initiative launched in 2012 to bring additional police resources to high-crime areas of Detroit, Flint and Saginaw.

The videos the Free Press obtained show a view from another security camera, and appear to depict the overhead emergency lights on Bessner’s squad car activating 24 seconds after the crash. State Police policy requires troopers to turn on their emergency lights, sirens and in-car video recording systems during a pursuit.

Asked this week, a spokeswoman for the Wayne County Prosecutors Office wouldn’t comment on whether the lights were on during the chase, saying she couldn’t discuss evidence before trial.

Around the time of the crash, State Police issued two news releases saying the lights had been on during the chase. Asked again this week, First Lt. Mike Shaw, a department spokesman, declined to comment because the criminal case is pending.

About the time the lights appear on video, Bessner’s partner, Trooper Ethan Berger, can be seen walking away from the car.

Shaw said there is dashcam video from that patrol car, but he wouldn’t describe what it shows citing the pending criminal case.

Shaw said the cameras typically are activated in one of several ways. They begin recording automatically when a trooper turns on the emergency lights. Troopers also can activate them by pushing a button on the dash or by turning on a microphone worn on the trooper’s belt.

“Have EMS step it up,” a person at the scene urged soon after the first two Detroit police officers arrived. As police waited for the ambulance, Grimes’ condition quickly worsened.

“I don’t know if he’s got a pulse anymore,” a voice is heard over the radio.

As another Detroit patrol car arrived, officers radioed for another update on the ambulance, noting Grimes’ pulse was weakening.

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Over 25 hours of video and audio detail an ATV crash in Detroit involving 15-year-old Damon Grimes, who was allegedly tased by Michigan State Police trooper Mark Bessner during a chase in August of 2017.

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Filming Cops
Filming Cops 5618 posts

Filming Cops was started in 2010 as a conglomerative blogging service documenting police abuse. The aim isn’t to demonize the natural concept of security provision as such, but to highlight specific cases of State-monopolized police brutality that are otherwise ignored by traditional media outlets.

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