Family of unarmed Michigan teen fatally shot by officer in traffic stop over flashing car’s brights files wrongful death lawsuit

New York Daily News – by Tobias Salinger

The family of a Michigan teen who flashed a car’s brights at a sheriff sergeant’s SUV and wound up dead filed a wrongful death lawsuit Wednesday.

A complaint on behalf of slain 17-year-old Deven Guilford accuses Eaton County Sheriff’s Sgt. Jonathan Frost of unconstitutional violations of privacy and excessive force in a Feb. 28 traffic stop in the rural central Michigan county outside Lansing.  

The family of slain Michigan teen Deven Guilford, 17, filed a wrongful death and violation of civil rights lawsuit Wednesday, four months after local prosecutors declined to charge Eaton County Sheriff's Sgt. Jonathan Frost in Guilford's February death. Guilford flashed the headlights of the car he was driving at the sheriff department’s new SUV as Frost drove it the opposite way on State Highway 43, according to the complaint. The Ford Explorer had “improperly bright or misaimed headlights” and Frost had stopped two other drivers for flashing their lights at him that night, the lawsuit said.

The officer and the unarmed teen can be seen arguing over whether Frost had his brights on in bodycam video that was later released. Guilford declines to turn over his license several times before Frost pulls him from the car, commands him to get on the ground and uses a stun gun on him in an attempt to arrest him in the footage. The five-minute video ends with Guilford screaming in agony after getting up and charging at the officer.

Eaton County Prosecuting Attorney Douglas R. Lloyd declined to charge Frost in June. Frost shot Guilford seven times after the teen knocked the officer down and pummeled him with punches to the face during the struggle in the snow by the side of the road, Lloyd concluded after an investigation. The prosecuting attorney’s office released pictures of Frost with his face bloodied by Guilford’s blows.

The probe by local officials and the Michigan State Police didn’t absolve Frost in the eyes of the teen’s family, though. The lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Michigan names both the officer and the county as defendants and requests compensation for Guilford’s death.

Frost and the county committed a “huge miscarriage of justice,” Guilford’s parents said in a statement to the Lansing State Journal.

“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 Fourth Amendment,” according to the complaint.

The teen was driving his girlfriend’s Ford Focus home from playing basketball at his church that night and had left his license at her house in nearby Mulliken, his family said. The Guilfords and their lawyers argue he and the other drivers who flashed their lights never should have been pulled over in the first place.

“I don’t understand how an innocent situation can escalate so much to end in the death of a harmless kid,” Guilford’s brother Aaron Guilford said in a statement to the State Journal. “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.”

Prosecutors called Guilford’s death a “tragedy” even as they announced they wouldn’t charge Frost in June. Guilford, whose autopsy showed he had smoked marijuana hours earlier, can be seen calling his girlfriend on his phone in the video. Frost later said he grew worried the teen was part of a militia movement and calling in other members to the scene, according to Lloyd’s report.

The officer acted “in justifiable self-defense,” Lloyd found.

“While, in retrospect, both Deven and Sgt. Frost could have made different choices, ultimately this tragedy would not have occurred if Deven Guilford had not physically attacked Sgt. Frost,” said the 19-page report released this summer by local prosecutors.

Representatives for the sheriff’s department and the county declined the State Journal’s request for comment on the family’s lawsuit.

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2 thoughts on “Family of unarmed Michigan teen fatally shot by officer in traffic stop over flashing car’s brights files wrongful death lawsuit

  1. Most brainwashed idiots will say that this kid brought it all on himself by not complying with the officer’s commands. The thing is that these gestapos do nothing to diffuse the situation. The cop already had the car’s plate number, and he also had the person driving the car on camera, there was no need to arrest or taze the driver. These gestapo bastards will use any reason to assault or kill you. Showing any defiance to their “absolute power” is a death warrant.

  2. #black lives matter #black lives matter — oh wait. They killed another white kid. Blond hair, blue eyes, fair skin. This kid wouldn’t look black in the middle of the night. Do you think that maybe ALL Americans are in danger?

    “The officer and the unarmed teen can be seen arguing….”
    “Guilford declines to turn over his license several times before Frost pulls him from the car…”

    There’s a real war coming, and it’s not with the mentally-challenged pig that you meet at a traffic stop. I understand the the kid was only exercising his rights, but that’s exactly who cops are beating the crap out of, and murdering.

    We don’t want to lose soldiers this way. The cop likes being a cop because he’s thrilled by the power it gives the sadistic bastard over other people. If you argue with him (challenge his “authority”) there’s going to be a fight that you’ll probably lose, because you’re there to argue, and he’s there to kill people.

    Swallow a little pride, give the stupid bastard his petty power trip, and drive away alive. You’re not going to have any effect on the pig’s future behavior by confronting him when you’re pulled over. He leaves the police station looking for the opportunity to beat some “uppity” drivers into submission, and we’re not going to win anything by being beaten to death on the side of a road, or by being dragged into the police station individually for similar treatment.

    The pig will get what he has coming when the war starts. Don’t try to start the war in a situation where you have no chance of winning. If they’re surrounding your home, or putting you in handcuffs that might be a different story, because you’ll never see the light of day again anyway, but this kid could have driven away with a $25 ticket.

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