Stepfather of Davontae Sanford, man wrongfully convicted, murdered on Detroit's east side

Posted at 10:43 AM, Nov 03, 2016
and last updated 2016-11-03 17:49:24-04

He is a man who is known for changing the lives of young people for the better, helping them escape gangs and stop violence. Now, he has lost his life to violence.

You may have seen Jeremaine Tilmon on 7 Action News fighting for justice for his stepson Davontae Sanford. Sanford served nine years after he was wrongfully convicted of murder. Tilmon spoke about how his faith helped him persevere in the fight until Sanford was freed from prison this year.

“He was a family person. He spoke about his family a lot,” said Quincy Smith, who volunteered with Tilmon in the program Ceasefire Detroit.

Tilmon was a gang interventionist with Ceasefire. He worked to help gang members leave gangs and start new lives.

“In this one situation we speak of a lot, a young man had an AK-47 in his hands. He walked up to him shook him, and said, ‘Stop.' Think about your future. And because of that, that man is working now. He is no longer in a gang,” said Smith.

Tilmon also volunteered with the Dignity Program as a mentor at East English Village Preparatory Academy in Detroit. Students at the school say he felt like family. Many called him Uncle.

“He kept us all out of trouble,”said Alona Love, a student. “He was an amazing person.”

Ava Gaymon, a graduate of East English Village Preparatory Academy, says she when she was about to drop out of high school, he encouraged her to stick it out. Now she is in college.

Many students say he was a father figure. They often asked him for advice.

“It was something I didn’t have in my life, a male role model that was like, ‘What are you doing that is something positive?’-- Or ‘You are going to be a successful person,’” said DeAngelo Hughes, a student at East English Village Preparatory Academy.

“Every murder is senseless, but he had an impact on 3,000 kids in just the last couple years,” said Ray Winans, who is with the Dignity Program.

The shooting happened on Chatsworth Street near Mack Avenue on East Outer Drive around 2:30 Thursday morning. People who know and care for Jeremaine Tilmon questioned why someone would hurt him. They asked, did his past and current lives collide?  Tilmon was so passionate about helping people get out of gangs because he was a gang member when he was a young man. He got out. They wondered did someone with a decades old grudge use his desire to help people to ambush him. Police say they are investigating that theory. 

Detroit Police say they have a “person of interest” in custody who they are questioning.

A Gofundme page has been set up to collect donations for Jeremaine Tilmon's family and any funeral expenses. You can contribute at