Eaton County, MI — It was announced in 2015 that the officer who shot and killed 17-year-old Deven Guilford for flexing his rights, would not be charged with any crimes. His family was devastated. However, after a long fight in the courts, a judge ruled in August that the federal lawsuit against his killer, Sgt. Jonathan Frost, could proceed to trial on two claims of excessive force. And, this week, the family finally has closure after reaching a $2.4 million settlement.
Deven’s father said the decision to settle was “emotional” and “difficult.” He said the family acted on the advice of their attorneys, but still struggles with finding closure over the death of their son, the Lansing State Journal reported.
“The life we had is no more,” Brian Guilford said Thursday. “I don’t think it’s something people can understand unless they’ve lost a child.”
Although the family agreed in January not to pursue Eaton County in the lawsuit, they have still been footing the bill for Frost’s legal expenses, as well as any settlement or judgment if the case went to trial.
“Ending this matter will hopefully allow the family to mourn their loss privately and not continue to be faced with their pain publicly through the course of a protracted legal battle,” Eaton County Controller John Fuentes said in a statement.
According to the Journal, the settlement requires that the lawsuit be dismissed “with prejudice” and that the Guilford family sign a general release of liability preventing any further claims, James Dyer, an attorney for Eaton County and Frost said in a statement after the settlement was announced.
“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,” Dyer said. “This settlement will at least help avoid a long, protracted and painful legal battle for everyone involved.”
“I think we did the right thing,” Guilford said through tears. “We do feel some closure, but it’s hard to say how much closure you feel, because today is so emotional. I just pray somehow law enforcement will take a different approach.”
That fateful night in 2015, Deven was traveling along the road and flashed his lights at an officer because his headlights were so bright that they nearly made Deven run off the road. He was then pulled over by Sgt. Frost of the Eaton County Sheriff’s Office, who stopped the young man for no other reason than the fact that he flashed his lights.
When Frost approached the car, Guilford explained that he was simply flashing his lights to be a polite driver, and let the officer know that his high beams were on so he didn’t cause an accident.
The officer began to get aggressive with Guilford when he attempted to flex his rights during the traffic stop. Guilford refused to show the officer his license and registration because he had broken no laws and the officer had no reason to stop him.
Guilford also began recording the encounter with his cell phone and let the officer know that he was filming for his own safety. He then asked the officer if he was being detained and for what reason. He was told that he was being detained because he refused to comply with Frost and show him his ID. However, not showing his ID is a secondary offense, meaning the officer would actually need a real reason to pull him over to begin with.
On a power trip, Frost violently ripped Guilford out of the vehicle and forced him down to the ground. Guilford attempted to remain filming while he complied with the officer’s orders and moved to the ground. Sadly, Guilford was not moving fast enough for Frost, so he tased the young boy. At this time, both the body camera and the cell phone footage cut out.
Off camera, Frost shot and killed the young boy. The known details are sparse because the killing happened out of the view of the dash-cam, and the body camera was turned off at that point. However, the officer claims that the young boy attacked him, so he “feared for his life” and killed him, firing 7 shots from his weapon.
Photos later surfaced of Frost bleeding from the face at the hospital. However, as the judge in the case stated, it was “inconceivable” for Guilford to have inflicted this damage.
“For someone who claims he was being ‘pummeled’ while lying on the ground, it remains curious that there were relatively few injuries to his face and almost no injuries to the back of his head,” federal Judge Paul Maloney, who allowed the lawsuit to continue, wrote. “…Moreover, Guilford had not a single bruise or cut to his hands — almost inconceivable, a jury could conclude, if he was ‘pummeling’ Frost to the point where he feared he would lose consciousness.”
Brian Guilford said the family was thankful for Maloney’s ruling.
“Ultimately, (Frost) knows he killed a very innocent, fun-loving, non-threatening teenage boy. He got killed because he made a police officer mad. No one will ever convince me Frost was afraid when he pulled Deven out of his car. What we really hold on to is Judge Maloney’s ruling and his opinion.”