Widow of Ga. Minister to Sue Cops Who Shot Him

The pregnant widow of a young Baptist pastor plans to file a wrongful death suit after Feb. 11, claiming that the officers who shot and killed her husband last year during a botched drug bust violated state laws.

Having notified 12 counties and cities in Georgia and a joint task force they staff that she plans to sue them in federal court, Abby Ayers will be able to file the lawsuit on Feb. 12 – which will mark 30 days since the last of 13 ante litem notices were sent.

According to the notice, Ayers will seek damages from the wrongful death of her husband, the Rev. Jonathan Ayers, and also on behalf of his estate "for his conscious pain and suffering prior to death, for medical expense and funeral expenses."

"Reverend Ayers was the victim of a wrongful death resulting from an unconstitutional and impermissible assault and battery against his person," the notice states.

"We also contend that there was the negligent use of an automobile that was jointly being used by members of the task force at the time of Reverend Ayers' death used and operation was a contributing favor in his death," it adds. "We also intend to assert claims for intentional infliction of emotional duress, and for false arrest and false imprisonment."

Last year, on Sept. 1, 28-year-old Ayers was shot by plain-clothes agents from a multi-county drug task force as he was leaving a gas station convenient store.

Though Ayers was not the initial target the drug sting, officers confronted the pastor of Shoal Creek Baptist Church in Lavonia after they saw him drop off a woman who they say had twice been seen selling drugs in the small town of Toccoa, Ga.

The officers said they approached Ayers' vehicle and yelled "Police! Stop!" as he was pulling his car out of the spot he was parked in. Despite the shouts, Ayers stepped on the gas, hitting one officer, who then fired into the car, believing his life was in danger, according to Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI) spokesman John Bankhead.

A second shot was fired when Ayers put his car into drive and maneuvered it toward the officer in a "threatening manner," added Stephens County Sheriff Randy Shirley.

Ayers drove for only a short distance before crashing into a utility pole, wounded from a shot to the liver.

The pastor later died at a local hospital about an hour after going into surgery. The woman Ayers gave a ride to, Kayla Barrett, meanwhile, was arrested on drug charges.

Last month, a Georgia county grand jury determined that the officers involved in the botched drug bust should not face criminal charges, saying that the deadly force by Agent Billy Shane Harrison was "legally justified based upon his objectively reasonably belief that such use of force was necessary to prevent death or great bodily harm to himself or others."

"Based upon this finding, we the Grand Jury believe that the officers involved in this incident would be immune from criminal prosecution pursuant to Official Code of Georgia Annotated 16-3-24.2," the Stephens County Grand Jury added in their four-page statement, citing a law which states in part that a person who uses threats or force in defense of self or others is immune from criminal prosecution.

In a statement released on day before the grand jury's announcement, Abby Ayers had expressed how "deeply disappointed" she was to hear of how the case was presented.

"I intend to follow the law and all recourse available to me to see that justice is done, and that all those responsible for Jonathan's death are held accountable," she added.

Ayers, who was pregnant when her husband died, expects to give birth to a baby boy in February.

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