Settlement Reached in Wrongful Death of Teen Shot and Killed by an Eaton County Deputy [Video]

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LANSING, MI – A settlement has been reached in the wrongful death lawsuit of 17-year-old Deven Guilford who was shot and killed by an Eaton County Sheriff’s Deputy in February of 2015.

In an effort to bring peace to the family of Deven Guilford, attorneys for the Guilford Family and Eaton County Sgt. Jon Frost have agreed to a $2.4 million settlement. The announcement was made this morning by attorney James Dyer, who represented both Sgt. Frost and Eaton County in the lawsuit. The settlement was reached after conferences with Magistrate Judge Ray Kent and the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals Mediation Office.

“During the settlement process, Sgt. Frost personally asked Judge Kent to help bring peace and closure to the Guilford family. We know no settlement amount will bring back their son, but like the Guilford family, Jon thinks about and prays for Deven Guilford every day. This settlement will at least help avoid a long, protracted and painful legal battle for everyone involved,” said Dyer. The settlement will be paid by the Michigan Municipal Risk Management Authority (MMRMA), Eaton County’s pooled risk manager.

“The settlement requires that the lawsuit pending in the federal District Court in Grand Rapids be dismissed with prejudice, and that Deven’s personal representative sign a general release of liability preventing any further claims. The settlement amount and distribution must be approved by the trial court. It does not include an admission of liability. I expect that the parties will shortly file the necessary documents to begin that process,” said Dyer.

The following statement is from Eaton County Sheriff Tom Reich regarding today’s announcement by MMRMA Attorney James Dyer of the settlement of the Guilford family law suit:

“This has been a tragedy for everyone involved. Our hearts go out to them and we know no amount of money can replace their loss.”

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 the 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 alleged 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 alleged that the County failed to properly train, supervise or disciple Frost and/or condoned unconstitutional practices, such as making illegal traffic stops.

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