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Former State Trooper Convicted in Taser Death of Detroit Teen

Former State Trooper Convicted in Taser Death of Detroit Teen

Mark Bessner, a former Michigan state trooper, was convicted of involuntary manslaughter in the August 2017 death of a Detroit teen on Wednesday.

The Associated Press (AP) reports Bessner fired a Taser from the passenger seat of a patrol car while he and his partner chased 15-year-old Damon Grimes as he rode an all-terrain vehicle (ATV). Grimes crashed the ATV and died after he was hit by the immobilizing device. The former trooper, who had a history of allegations of misusing his Taser, claimed the teen was reaching for a gun. Investigators found the teen was unarmed.

Bessner, who quit the force after the shooting, was charged with second-degree murder, but a Michigan jury opted for convicting him on the lesser charge of manslaughter after one day of deliberating. He is facing a maximum of 15 years in prison and will be sentenced on May 2.

This was Bessner’s second time being tried for Grimes’ death. Last fall, he took the stand during a trial in which he “emotionally” testified that the teen, who was Black, was carrying a gun. The first trial resulted in a hung jury.

During the second trial, jurors heard the testimony of a state police lieutenant who explained how a Taser can be as a “tool of deadly force” and an audio clip of Bessner saying he wished he’d used a Taser in a separate ATV incident.

Grimes family spokesman Oliver Gantt said the family is “somewhat satifisfied” with the verdict. “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.

According to the AP, Bessner was cleared of misconduct allegations in how he used his Taser while chasing a suspect only two months before Grimes was killed. In 2014, Bessner agreed to a brief suspension after he was accused of misconduct for firing a Taser at a handcuffed man.

Jasmine Washington is a beauty-obsessed journalist by day and a trap music connoisseur by night. A lifelong New Yorker, she got her start as an intern at the now-defunct Juicy Magazine. Jasmine joined the EBONY.com team as a writer, penning daily stories on all things Black culture and entertainment.