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State police trooper suspended for tasing teen before deadly crash

A Michigan State Police file photo.
Michigan State Police
A Michigan State Police file photo.

A Michigan State Police trooper has been suspended after he shot a 15-year-old all-terrain vehicle driver with a Taser, prior to the teen fatally crashing into the back of a pickup truck.

Around 5:30 on Saturday afternoon, state police troopers assigned to a post in Detroit’s 9th precinct saw an ATV four wheeler driving recklessly, a spokesman said. They turned around to pursue the driver, with lights and siren on, but the driver didn’t stop for six city blocks while heading east along Rossini towards Gratiot Avenue.

At some point during this pursuit, a white trooper shot the teenage driver with a Taser.

The ATV driver, a black male whose name is not being released by police, attempted to drive onto a sidewalk, but crashed into the back of a pickup truck. Police say they immediately administered first aid, but the teen was pronounced dead at the hospital.

The MSP's Investigative Response Team and traffic reconstruction team are investigating the incident as a criminal matter, said MSP spokesman First Lieutenant Mike Shaw.

“[The trooper] was in his patrol car [when he deployed the Taser], which is a violation of our policies and procedures,” Shaw said. “So we immediately suspended this trooper for his actions in the pursuit, pending further investigation.”

They’re also asking anyone who witnessed the crash to call the police.

“There was a lot of people that were on the scene that we don’t believe we talked to, that may have witnessed the crash, or witnessed what occurred after the crash, or prior to. And we’d really like to talk to those folks by having them call the MSP Metro South Post at 734-287-5000,” Shaw said.

Asked if deploying a Taser is considered an appropriate reaction to teenager recklessly driving an ATV, Shaw responded that failing to stop for police is also a crime.

“No excuse for that trooper to do what he did,” he said. “Our job is to determine exactly what occurred out there, and then get that to either Wayne County Prosecutor’s office or the Attorney General, to determine if any type of criminal activity took place with this trooper.”

Investigators are also looking at any footage of the crash they can find. State police don’t wear body cameras, Shaw said, but they do have dashboard cams on their cars – although the camera on the state police car may not have filmed the crash.

“From what I’ve seen so far of our video, it doesn’t capture the crash or the Taser deployment…the camera was on, it was operating, it just was pointed in a direction from the chase where they did not capture the crash,” Shaw says. “And then DPD officers from the 9th precinct, they work on the same radio system, and hearing that there was a pursuit, they started to get into that area as well. [It] does not appear that any of them were initially involved in the pursuit itself, but arrived on the scene closely after the incident occurred.”

The trooper is a five-year veteran of the Michigan State Police, the spokesman said, but the MSP typically doesn’t release names unless an individual is charged or arraigned.

When asked to identify the race of the trooper and the victim, Shaw said he had that information ready.

“Yup, I kind of figured that question would come out there,” he said. “The victim is a black male and the trooper is a white male. Which has absolutely nothing to do with this incident [being investigated.] We look at every pursuit, regardless of race, regardless of the sex of the individual…race has no issue into this," Shaw responded. "Unfortunately, in today’s age and with some of the media stories that are out there, that seems to be a question that always gets asked right away.” 

Kate Wells is a Peabody Award-winning journalist currently covering public health. She was a 2023 Pulitzer Prize finalist for her abortion coverage.
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