Family of Slain Teen Sues Officer for Roadside Shooting

Written by Ethan M. Long

The parents of Deven Guilford have filed a complaint against the officer who shot and killed their son last February. The 17-year-old Michigan teen was shot to death by Sgt. Jonathon Frost after flashing his car headlights to signal that the officer’s brights were on. That officer has yet to receive any sort of reprimand. Joining him as a defendant will be Eaton County, Michigan, which took no steps towards punishment for the Sergeant.

The story goes like this: Guilford was driving down M-43 in his girlfriend’s 2010 Ford Focus, heading to see her after playing basketball with his brother, when he saw a new 2015 Ford Explorer SUV with Eaton County Sheriff Department tags on it.

According to the complaint: “FROST’S vehicle had improperly bright or misaimed, headlights, even on low-beams, inasmuch as the record reflects that at least three vehicles, including GUILFORD, flashed their headlights at FROST, apparently attempting to get him to dim his headlights that projected glaring oncoming rays into the eyes of oncoming drivers.”

Michigan Motor Vehicle Code states that, when a driver sees an approaching vehicle within 500 feet, that they “shall use a distribution of light or composite beam so aimed that the glaring rays are not projected into the eyes of the oncoming driver,” as the complaint points out. Frost was in violation of this traffic law, yet instead of turning his brights off, he stopped all three drivers who signaled at him. This, the complaint says, was illegal.

“After FROST stopped GUILFORD, a dispute arose over whether FROST had been driving with his bright (high beam) lights on, which FROST denied,” it states, with Frost becoming agitated by the third time. He asked Guilford for his driver’s license, registration and proof of insurance, which Guilford refused. It was later revealed that his ID was at his girlfriend’s house. Guilford asked Frost for his badge number, but was refused. Frost called for “priority backup,” and then told Guilford to exit the vehicle, grabbing him and started “pulling him out.”

The complaint continues, “Frost then drew his taser, pointed at Guilford and told him to exit the vehicle. Of course, with a taser pointed at him, he complied.

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Frost ordered the teen on his knees first, then told him to lie “face first in the ice and snow beside the road.”

Guilford looked at the officer, which allegedly frightened him, causing him to shoot the teenager in the back with the taser. Guilford got on his feet as a reaction, but within seconds, Frost shot and killed him with his firearm.

“The entire encounter lasted just over 5 minutes and the backup vehicles arrived only a minute after the shots were fired,” the complaint states.

The prosecution will be using the Michigan Wrongful Death Act, which will help the family cover damages, such as loss of “society and companionship,” “lifetime of earning capacity,” “medical and burial expenses,” “conscious pain and suffering prior to death,” and “financial support of family members.”

They are arguing that “the acts of Frost in stopping, demanding identification, ordering Guilford from the car, arresting him as if he were a felon, tasing him and then killing him, were all separate and distinct illegal and unreasonable seizures under the 4th Amendment.”

Keep in mind, Frost received no punishment for this entire ordeal. Instead, his story was that he was attacked first. Photos were even released in June of his “injuries.”

The video from Frost’s body camera proves almost everything the complaint says. Frost denies that his brights were on. After Guilford asks for identification, the officer gives his name, but also tells him “You cannot see my badge number.”

Guilford then pulls out his cellphone and says “I am video and audio recording, for my safety and your safety,” which Frost says is “absolutely fine.”

Frost stresses that his highbeams were not on, and that the lights on the car, because it is new, are brighter than normal cars. He then, after a pause, opens the car door and starts to pull on Guilford’s clothes.

“Do not touch me, officer!” Guilford yells before being threatened with a taser.

He gets down on the ground and within 20 seconds tases him at close range.

There are a couple seconds where the camera shakes with Guilford screaming and then, silence.

There is no proof of what actually happened during those couple of seconds, or right after. Photos released in June showed Frost’s bloodied face. It is alleged by the defense that he was attacked by Guilford.

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According to local news station WLNS, Guilford attempted to get into a fist fight with Frost, citing that the body camera shows, when slowed, that Guilford lands a punch on Frost’s face, which then caused him to fight back.

“Sgt. Frost reports that as Deven is hitting him he can feel blood coming to his mouth, he can feel the pain in his face and he believes that he may be losing consciousness,” Eaten County Prosecutor Doug Lloyd told WLNS in June.

The prosecution alleges that he “acted in an intentional, reckless, malicious manner toward Guilford with deliberate indifference to and callous disregard for his health, safety and welfare.”

In a statement, the family said that while they aren’t against police officers, they find that the body camera footage compelled them to get answers and hopefully find justice for their son.

A website was set up after Guilford’s death which includes a couple “operations,” encouraging readers to take part in to bring justice to the family. “Operation Abomination” gives out all the information to file Freedom of Information Requests from the Michigan State Police, Eaton County, the State of Michigan, the US Military, and the Eaton County Sheriff’s Office.

“Operation Incarceration” asks readers to send letters pushing for the State of Michigan to bring criminal charges against Frost.

“Operation Termination” encourages readers to contact elected officials so that Frost’s employment might be terminated.

Source: MIheadlines, WLNS.com


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About the author

Ethan M. Long

Ethan Long is a journalist based out of Boston, MA.

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Family of Slain Teen Sues Officer for Roadside Shooting

by Ethan M. Long
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