DETROIT – The family of a Detroit teenager who died in a 2017 ATV crash shortly after a state trooper deployed a stun gun on him has settled its wrongful death lawsuit against Michigan State Police for $12 million.
The settlement will go to the family of 15-year-old Damon Grimes, who was driving his ATV in August 2017 on the city’s east side when the trooper, who said he thought the teen was driving recklessly, fired his stun gun at him from the passenger seat of a moving patrol car.
Damon then slammed into the back of a parked truck, and soon after died from his injuries.
In May, the now-former Michigan State Police trooper who used the stun gun, Mark Bessner, was sentenced to 5 to 15 years in prison for involuntary manslaughter. It is a violation of Michigan State Police policy to deploy a stun gun from a moving vehicle.
The $12-million settlement will end a federal lawsuit filed by Damon’s family in U.S. District Court in Detroit against Bessner and two other troopers, Ethan Berger and Sgt. Jacob Liss, a supervisor. Berger, who was driving the patrol car when Bessner fired the stun gun, has since resigned from the agency.
A State Police internal affairs report obtained by the Free Press in 2018 accused Berger and Liss of attempting to cover up details of the ATV incident, such as the use of the stun gun.
State Police revised its chase policy for ATVs in the aftermath of Damon’s death and stopped doing chases in Detroit involving traffic or misdemeanor violations. That new policy was later adopted statewide.
The Grimes family, including Damon’s mother Monique Grimes and his sisters Dezjanai and Dezanique Grimes, are to get about $8 million of the settlement. Most of the remaining $4 million is to go to the family’s lawyers at the Fieger law firm.
“I am sad for the family; no amount of money is going to make up for it,” attorney Geoffrey Fieger said Friday. “But it’s a substantial enough of a settlement that it really sends a message to the citizens and the police that this kind of behavior is intolerable.”
Damon would have started ninth grade that fall at Michigan Collegiate in Warren.
Prior to the ATV incident, Bessner had a history of using excessive force and was reprimanded for using his stun gun inappropriately, including on handcuffed suspects.
In a statement, State Police spokeswoman Lori Dougovito said the agency extends its condolences to the Grimes family.
“Damon Grimes’ death is a tragedy that could have been avoided if not for the criminal and unforgivable actions of a former MSP trooper,” she said.
The statement continues, “The MSP recognizes that while this monetary settlement does not change how this has affected the Grimes family, it may help to begin to bring some closure. The MSP sincerely apologizes to everyone impacted by this senseless act and we have prioritized working with our troopers and the community to avoid this from happening again.”
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This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Family of Detroit teen killed in ATV accident gets $12M settlement