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Officer Charged With Murder in Black Teen’s Death Allegedly Has History of Using His Taser to Punish Black Men


A Michigan police officer facing murder charges over the death of 15-year-old Damon Grimes has a history of using his Taser to punish suspects, according to the prosecution in his ongoing case.

On August 26, 2017, now-former Michigan state trooper Mark Bessner allegedly fired his department-issued Taser out of his squad car while chasing Grimes, a teenager who was driving an ATV at the time.

Seemingly as a result of being shocked by Bessner’s Taser, Grimes plowed his vehicle into the back of a pickup truck while being pursued by multiple members of the Michigan State Police. Officers performed CPR after the crash, but Grimes died more or less instantly.

On Wednesday, the Detroit Free Press obtained court documents showing that prosecutors intend to argue Bessner’s use of a Taser fits a longstanding pattern of abuse against “a specific class of people.”

That class of people appears to be black males. Undergirding the prosecution’s theory is the testimony of another young black man, Forrest Harvey III. Harvey claims he was also shot by Bessner with a Taser–just six weeks before Grimes’ tragic death.

In those same court documents, Harvey relays how he encountered Bessner in Detroit near 7 Mile. After Bessner exited his patrol car, he allegedly ordered Harvey to raise his hands into the air and then shot him with a Taser roughly one second later.

In their request to admit the evidence, prosecutors transcribed Harvey’s arrest as it appeared on dashcam footage from a State Police patrol car. After being shot, Harvey seizes up and falls onto the pavement in front of a gas station. Then Harvey screams, “Why did you shoot me?” To which Bessner replies, “Shut up…you’re under arrest right now. You blew it…you’re not trying to flee with your wheels up. You were doing wheelies on 7 Mile you idiot…trying to get away.”

The prosecution’s argument holds that Harvey’s treatment is indicative of Bessner’s bias against that aforementioned “class of people.” Bessner’s alleged bias rose to a pattern of abusive behavior against such individuals due to the rogue officer’s authority complex, according to the prosecution.

Additionally, prosecutors intend to cite at least three other incidents where they say Bessner unnecessarily tasered suspects–even while some of those suspects were already handcuffed and subdued. The image suggested by the prosecution here is that of a bully acting outside the law in order to satiate his own prejudices and desire to punish others.

Wayne County Circuit Judge Margaret Van Houten has scheduled a hearing this Friday to decide whether or not to allow the prosecution to enter those prior cases into evidence.

In an interview with the Free Press earlier this week, Harvey said he was in jail when he saw Bessner on TV in relation to the Grimes case. He said, “I was like, ‘that’s the same guy that had tased me on my 4-wheeler.'” Harvey added that the accusation against the former state trooper wasn’t much of a surprise.

Bessner’s trial on charges of manslaughter and second-degree murder is currently slated to begin in August.

[image via Michigan State Police]

Follow Colin Kalmbacher on Twitter: @colinkalmbacher

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