Saturday, October 17, 2015

Cop shoots dead unarmed 17-year-old driving back from church basketball game after teen flashed his lights to signal patrol car lights were on high

Some self-inflicted scratches on the cop?

The devastated family of an unarmed teenage boy who was shot dead by a Michigan sheriff's deputy earlier this year after flashing his car lights at him has filed a lawsuit against the officer.

Deven Guilford, 17, was pulled over by Sgt. Jonathan Frost, of Eaton County Sheriff's Department, on a cold evening in February after flashing the officer because he believed his brights were on.

During the traffic stop, Guilford refused to put his hands behind his back or give Frost any official documents, leading to an altercation between them, according to county prosecutor Doug Lloyd.

This ended with Guilford lying dead in a snow-filled ditch, having been shot seven times by Frost.

Now, the teenager's grief-stricken relatives are taking legal action against the officer and the county - four months after Lloyd cleared Frost of any criminal wrongdoing in the February 28 shooting.

In their suit, filed in federal court Wednesday, the family members claim Frost's 'entire course of action' in the fatal incident was illegal' - and that it was 'in violation of Deven's constitutional rights'.

'As we take this action today we are outraged at the huge miscarriage of justice done to our son Deven Guilford,' the boy's parents, Brian and Becky Guilford, said in a statement Wednesday.

They added that their trust in officials has been 'shaken to the core' following their son's death.

The suit requests a jury trial in the case, according to the Detroit Free Press.

However, it does not seek specific financial damages.

Guilford had just finished playing a game of basketball at a local church and was driving to his girlfriend's home in her 2010 Ford Focus on the M-43 near Mulliken at around 8.30pm when he passed by Frost, an eight-year veteran on the force who was driving a new patrol car.

Believing the officer's bright lights were on, the teenager flashed him. He was one of at least three motorists to flash Frost, implying his vehicle had 'improperly bright or misaimed' lights, the suit says.

Guilford was subsequently pulled over by Frost and asked for identifying documents.

However, he allegedly refused to give the officer his driver's license - which was actually at his girlfriend's house - as well as his registration or his proof of insurance, Lloyd told the Press.

Frost then pulled the teenager out of his car and told him to lie on his stomach on the ground, which Guilford did. However, when he was asked to put his hands behind his back, he refused to do so.

Seconds later, Frost fired his stun gun into Guilford, but it was not completely effective, it is reported.

An 'altercation' then apparently occurred, which left Frost bloody and resulted in Guilford's shooting death.

Photos from the night of the incident that were released by the Eaton county Prosecutor's Office in June depicted Officer Frost with facial injuries and thick, dark blood streaks on his forehead, nose and lips.

Prosecuting Attorney Doug Lloyd, who made the gory images public, said that during his scuffle with Guilford, Frost could taste blood in his mouth and felt he was about to pass out before he unholstered his gun and shot the teenage seven times at close range in the span of four seconds, reported the Detroit Free Press at the time.

After the shooting, Frost was taken to a hospital to be treated for injuries to his face and head. He was released the next morning after X-rays showed he did not suffer a fractured jaw or orbital bone, as had been initially feared.

Footage captured on the teenager's cell phone and Frost's body camera shows the officer approaching Guilford's car, before telling him: 'Trust me, I did not have [my bright lights] on.'

Frost then repeatedly asks the boy for his driver's license, registration and proof of insurance, before dragging him out of his vehicle, ordering him to lie on the ground and training his stun gun on him.

'Arms out to the side,' Frost instructs Guilford angrily.

After the teenager refuses to put his hands behind his back so he can be handcuffed, Frost can be seen physically restraining him, causing Guilford to cry: 'Officer, what are you doing?'

As the boy struggles, Frost then tasers him, prompting him to jump up. The footage then goes blurry, before cutting off altogether, so it does not depict the moment of the deadly shooting.

Frost's camera apparently came off in the struggle, while Guilford's phone lay on the sidewalk.

Guilford was pronounced dead at the scene.

In their statement on Wednesday, Guilford's parents referred to the video footage, saying: '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.'

Cynthia Heenan, of Constitutional Litigation Associates P.C., who is representing Deven's family, said the teenager's fatal shooting represents a 'disturbing trend of demanding 100 per cent compliance with police authority, coupled with zero tolerance of risk of harm to police officers.'

She added that Guilford's death was 'tragic and totally unnecessary'.

Lloyd's decision to clear Frost of any criminal wrongdoing followed an internal investigation into the incident, which found the deputy followed official 'regulations, general orders and training'.

Hugh Davis, another attorney representing the family pits the blame on the militarization of police in the U.S.

He told CNN that it has gotten to the point where 'you can't question an officer' or else they will respond with 'violence'.

The inquiry also found Guilford had traces of marijuana in his system.

However, the teenager's relatives maintain that Frost acted illegally by shooting Guilford dead - and that he also had no right to pull him over in the first place, The Free Thought Project reports.

They have set up a Facebook page dedicated to getting 'justice' for Guilford.

On the page, named 'Justice For Deven Guilford', they write: 'Deven Guilford was 17 years old, on his way home from a church basketball game, when he was pulled over by an Eaton county police officer. This routine traffic stop turned into a struggle and Deven was shot and killed. 'Our family is seeking justice, accountability, and SUPPORT!'

In one post, Guilford's relatives explain how they are 'not anti-cop or 'anti-Eaton County' - and had 'backed every officer' involved in a shooting 'before this happened to our beloved Deven'.

But they write: 'If the facts were plain and simple that Deven was in the wrong, we would not be going forward with any of this but there are too many holes in the story.'

Original report here

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