On Aug. 26, 2017, Damon Grimes died after succumbing to injuries from a fatal all-terrain vehicle accident. But since we’re The Root, you know we’ve uncovered more to the story.
Prior to the collision, the 15-year-old was illegally riding an A.T.V. through a residential neighborhood in Detroit. When state troopers attempted to pull him over, Grimes failed to do so, and his insubordination would cost him his life. From the passenger side of the patrol car, former state trooper Mark Bessner pulled out his taser and stunned Grimes, who then crashed into the back of a parked truck. He died shortly thereafter.
Now, a little over two years later, Grimes’ family will receive some sense of comfort and relief after settling a $12 million wrongful-death lawsuit against Michigan State Police, according to the New York Times.
In discussing the largest settlement ever paid by the Michigan State Police Department for a single incident, George Fieger, a lawyer for the Grimes family, expressed his hope that it will serve as a catalyst for change.
“We hope this kind of money will act as a deterrent,” he said. “But unfortunately it rarely does.”
In April, Bessner was convicted of involuntary manslaughter and sentenced to five to 15 years in prison for actions that the Michigan State Police deemed “criminal and unforgivable” in an official statement released on Friday:
“The Michigan State Police extends its continued condolences to the Grimes family, friends and supporters. Damon Grimes’ death is a tragedy that could have been avoided if not for the criminal and unforgivable actions of a former MSP trooper. 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.”
In the immediate aftermath of this incident, the Michigan State Police modified its pursuit policy in Detroit. State troopers are now prohibited from following vehicles due to a traffic violation or misdemeanor offense.
As the New York Times notes, this serves as the latest example of what seems like a perpetual cycle of officer-related, wrongful-death settlements involving black men and boys. In October, the family of Stephon Clark reached a $2.4 million settlement with Sacramento, Calif., the family of Tamir Rice received $6 million from Cleveland, Ohio, and in 2015, Eric Garner’s family settled with New York City for $5.9 million.
“This settlement is about justice,” Fieger said. “But justice doesn’t get back their son.”