EATON COUNTY, MI – The family of Deven Guilford filed a lawsuit today in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Michigan against Eaton County Sheriff Deputy Jonathan Frost and Eaton County.
The Eaton County Prosecutor announced in June of 2015 that there would be no charges in the fatal shooting of Deven Guilford during a traffic stop. The Prosecutor made the decision based on several minutes of body cam footage, along with videos recorded from Deven Guilford’s cell phone.
Full Press Release
Around 8:00 pm on February 28, 2015, the 17-year-old Grand Ledge High School student was shot seven times by Eaton County Deputy Sheriff Sgt. Jonathan Frost. While he was driving to his girlfriend’s house after playing basketball at his church, Deven was stopped because he momentarily flashed his bright lights to alert the oncoming officer that his brights appeared to be on. Five minutes later he was dead.
During this traffic stop, it appears that Deven was puzzled and confused about why he was pulled over and why he was being confronted and ultimately arrested by the officer. The officer did nothing to calm or deescalate the situation. Instead, Frost rapidly became argumentative and agitated when Deven asserted that the officer had been driving with his high beams on and resisted producing his ID. The entire encounter lasted just over 5 minutes and the backup Frost had called for, before he ever touched Deven or his vehicle, arrived barely a minute after the fatal shots were fired.
The lawsuit alleges that Frost’s entire course of action was illegal and in violation of Deven’s constitutional rights. The momentary warning flash of high beams does not violate Michigan law. Hence, Frost had no right to pull Deven over, demand his paperwork, arrest him or require him to exit the vehicle. The force used was excessive and unnecessary. The suit also alleges that the County failed to properly train, supervise or disciple Frost and/or condoned unconstitutional practices, such as making illegal traffic stops.
Brian Guilford, Deven’s father and the Personal Representative of Deven’s Estate, is represented by Hugh “Buck” Davis and Cynthia Heenan of Constitutional Litigation Associates, P.C., a Detroit firm specializing in police misconduct litigation.
“Deven’s tragic and totally unnecessary death represents a disturbing trend of demanding 100% compliance with police authority, coupled with zero tolerance of risk of harm to police officers. Whatever happened to “protect and serve?” Ms. Heenan said.
“When every governmental budget is overloaded with military and law enforcement spending (including courts, jails, prisons, probations, etc.) the decades-long push for ‘law and order’ and the failed ‘War on Drugs’ has made us a de facto police state,” said Mr. Davis.
Supporters will hold a rally at the state capitol on Saturday, October 24th from 2-5 p.m.
Statements from Deven Guilford’s family:
As we take this action today we are outraged at the huge miscarriage of justice done to our son Deven Guilford.
For three months we agonized in confusion trying to figure out how our son, who had never even been in a serious fight, was shot seven times coming from basketball at church and going to his girlfriend’s to watch movies. We played scenarios over in our minds trying figure out how Deven could have acted so out of character and attacked Frost as they told us he had.
Since the moment we viewed the body camera footage our confusion has turned to outrage over what was done to Deven at the hands of Frost and the whole Eaton County “justice” system.
We always had great respect for law enforcement and the men and women who chose that profession in the past. But we must say that belief has been shaken to the core by the actions of Frost and refusal of the Eaton County Prosecutor to hold Frost accountable. The failed criminal justice system forces us to seek other avenues for some kind of JUSTICE FOR DEVEN.
— From the proud parents of Deven Guilford
Love you Dallllvin
I don’t understand how an innocent situation can escalate so much to end in the death of a harmless kid. Deven was listening to Frost’s commands, he never swore or used any profane language. He was confused and he never received any respect in return. This was a senseless death. When the story is brought up, many say that things could have been done differently on both sides. It just seems that a trained officer would know how to handle an unarmed 17 year old boy without killing him. Justice must be served. Deven should not have died that night.
— Aaron Guilford
It has been 228 days since we lost our little brother by the hands of a police officer. There has not been one day that has gone by that we haven’t thought about him and the great in-justice that happened to him. To think that a courtesy flash from my brother could end in him being killed doesn’t make sense to us. Why couldn’t you just give a flash back? Would that have been too hard? Especially when you knew that you had bright lights on your vehicle! Words can’t even begin to describe the loss of Deven: the life of the party at camping, birthday parties, special occasions, and just everyday moments that you miss when someone is gone. He kept us laughing and loving. We were always proud of how great of a kid you were. Nothing could ever fill the void that is in our hearts now that you are gone. You will never be forgotten as a great brother, brother in law, uncle and friend. We love you Deven.
— The Ryan Guilford family