DETROIT – Michigan State Police tried, but failed, to suspend a soldier for his use of a stun gun months before he fired a Taser on a teenager who crashed an all-terrain vehicle and died, according to the data obtained by The Associated Press.
Mark Bessner is charged with murder in the death of Damon Grimes, but it was not his only incident with a Taser. Details are in staff documents released to the AP through a public records request.
The police wanted to suspend Bessner for 10 days for firing his Taser twice on a beaten man who walks away in 2016. But a referee said that there was no “cause” for discipline.
In 2014, Bessner fired his Taser on a suspect who was handcuffed. He agreed to a five-day suspension, records show, but four days were eventually lost. It was apparently his first case of misconduct.
Bessner, 43, now faces serious legal problems. He was charged last week with second-degree murder in the August death of Damon Grimes of Detroit, who was joyriding on an all-terrain vehicle when the trooper fired his stun gun. The 15-year-old crashed and died.
Bessner, that stop the state of the police after the teenager’s death, has pleaded not guilty and is being held on $1 million bond. Prosecutor Kym Worthy said there was no reason for him to fire his Taser, especially from a moving patrol car.
“His behavior was criminal. We’re not trying to pull the blanket over anyone’s eyes,” a state police spokesman, Lt. Mike Shaw, said on Tuesday.
Just two months earlier, an arbitrator had cleared Bessner of misconduct in how he used his Taser while chasing a crime suspect. The man was beaten during a traffic stop in Detroit, but suddenly ran away and was able to clear fences.
Bessner believed the man must have slipped out of the sleeves so he used his Taser twice to subdue him. It was a wrong assumption. It is generally against public policy to the use of a stun gun on a handcuffed person in custody.
Arbitrator Steven Lett, however, found technical differences. He said that the man was “no longer in custody” as soon as he walked away.
“The question is whether the officer’s actions are objectively reasonable in light of all facts and circumstances,” Lett said, citing a training guide from the Michigan Commission on Law Enforcement Standards.
If the 10 days after the suspension had been confirmed, would have led to an extra four days of the 2014 incidents that were suspended, Shaw said.
Bessner’s personnel file shows he was facing a third misconduct allegation in March. The police said that he was driving at high speed, without emergency lights or siren. The matter apparently was not resolved before he stopped last fall.
Bessner the file also contains praise for his work. He was recognised by the department for saving a woman who had a heroin overdose. “Best wishes for success,” Col. Kriste Kibbey Etue wrote in February 2017.
This story has been corrected to show that the arbitrator came two months before the teen’s death, not three.
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