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Pastor fatally shot by police in drug sting

Rating:
4/5,
  1. RoboCodeine7610
    ATLANTA, Georgia (CNN) -- A north Georgia pastor was shot to death by police when he struck an officer with his car after he was seen in a vehicle with a drug suspect, authorities told CNN.
    art.ayers.wyff.jpg
    Authorities say they found nothing illegal in Jonathan Ayers' car after he was slain during a drug sting.

    Jonathan Ayers, pastor at Shoal Creek Baptist Church in Lavonia, Georgia, died after the incident Tuesday afternoon in the nearby town of Toccoa, Georgia, police said. The Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI) is looking into the shooting.

    An undercover drug task force team had set up an operation at a local business, and had a woman under surveillance -- someone they had bought drugs from on two previous occasions, GBI spokesman John Bankhead told CNN Thursday.

    The officers saw the woman in a car with Ayers and saw what they believed was a drug transaction, Bankhead said. They followed the car as Ayers dropped the woman off at a gas station.

    The undercover officers wanted to question Ayers about what they had just seen, he said. "They approached the vehicle. They were in plain clothes. They identified themselves as police officers, which civilian witnesses say happened. They also had badges around their necks."
    Ayers put the car in reverse and backed up, striking an officer, Bankhead said.

    According to Bankhead, Ayers then put the car into drive, and another officer fired into the car, hitting Ayers, because he thought his life was in danger.

    "The subject kept going and drove off," Bankhead said. "And later he ran off the road. He was taken a local hospital, went into surgery and died an hour later."

    The incident was caught on the gas station's surveillance camera.
    Police later determined what they had seen was not a drug transaction, but "other circumstances were involved, and that's part of the investigation," Bankhead said.

    The woman who was in the car with Ayers was taken into custody and faces drug charges, Bankhead said.

    Stephens County sheriff Randy Shirley has placed both officers involved in the incident on paid administrative leave, he said. The officer that was struck by the car was treated and released at a local hospital.

    No drugs and nothing else illegal was found in Ayers' car, Bankhead said, "even though what occurred would make any undercover officer working drugs think that was a possibility. I can't get into that, but that's what we're looking at."

    Shirley told CNN the drug task force unit comprises three Georgia counties -- Stephens, Habersham and Rabun.
    Ayers' sister did not return a call from CNN Thursday.


    Ayers maintained a blog, in which he wrote that he had three loves in life: "Jesus Christ, my wife Abby, and the Church."
    Toccoa is about 95 miles northeast of Atlanta.

Comments

  1. EscapeDummy
    This whole situation is F**ked up, but why did he attempt to flee after hitting the officer with his car? Doesn't help your case no matter how you look at it.
  2. Frond
    Why would a pastor ram a police officer when he wasn't under direct suspicion himself? It doesn't make any sense. I'm willing to bet that the so-called "civilian witnesses" didn't really see any of this, and the cops didn't really conduct the investigation in as professional a manner as they claim. The pastor probably thought he was under attack by thugs, which probably wasn't far from the truth to begin with. And they shot him.

    Oh well, at least we're not some poor remote country with military dictators sacking villages, killing off every man, child and old woman while taking off every young woman to rape at leisure. So everything's peachy! :applause:
  3. Impure157
    The only thing that bothers me about this, because I actually do believe that they identified themselves is... what do they mean by 'struck'? Did he full on smash the guy? did he clip him or was it more of a slight bump?

    I know enough officers to be able to say that I highly doubt these guys just walked up on him and when he accidentally hit one they started blasting him.
  4. chillinwill
    Stunning developments in the 2009 police shooting of Georgia pastor Jonathan Ayers

    The Jonathan Ayers story was already outrageous enough. Last September, Ayers, a 28-year-old Baptist pastor from Lavonia, Georgia, was gunned down by a North Georgia narcotics task force in the parking lot of a gas station. Ayers had not been a suspect in any drug investigation. And even today, police acknowledge he was not using or trafficking in illicit drugs. Instead, Ayers had either been ministering to or having an affair with (depending on whom you believe) Johanna Kayla Jones Barrett, the actual target of the investigation.

    Ayers is yet more collateral damage in the boundlessly tragic and wasteful drug war, as are his widowed wife Abigail and the child she was carrying at the time of his death. But that's really only the beginning of this mess. In a lawsuit filed last week, Abigail Ayers makes some astonishing new allegations about the competence of the police officers who killed her husband, the supervisors who hired them, and the law enforcement agencies and the grand jury that investigated Ayers' death. Most damning: The police officer who killed Ayers wasn't even authorized to be carrying a gun or a badge.

    Hours before Ayers was killed, police say Johanna Barrett sold undercover officer Chance Oxner $50 worth of crack cocaine. According to an interview Barrett gave to the North Georgian newspaper shortly after Ayers' death, the pastor had seen her walking near a gas station on her way back to an extended-stay motel where she was living with her boyfriend. Ayers, who had known Barrett for a number of years, offered her a ride back to the motel and gave her the money in his pocket, $23, to help pay her rent.

    The police were trailing Barrett at the time. But instead of apprehending her at the motel, they instead followed Ayers, the stranger they'd just seen give her a ride and hand her some cash.

    Ayers then pulled into a nearby gas station to withdraw money from an ATM. Shortly after he got back into his car, a black Escalade tore into the parking lot. Three officers, all undercover, got out of the vehicle and pointed their guns at Ayers. The pastor, understandably, attempted to escape. As he pulled out of the station, Ayers grazed Officer Oxner with his car. Officer Billy Shane Harrison then opened fire, shooting Ayers in the stomach. (You can watch surveillance video of the altercation here.) Ayers continued to drive, fleeing the parking lot for about a thousand yards before eventually crashing his car. He died at the hospital.

    Ayers’ last words to his family and medical staff were that he thought he was being robbed. The police found no illicit drugs in his car, and there was no trace of any illegal substance in his body.

    If the story ended there, it would merely be enough to boil your blood. These officers jumped from an SUV waving their guns commando-style over a possible $50 drug transaction. Worse, the man they pounced upon wasn't the target of their investigation.

    The police claimed they announced themselves, but it isn't difficult to see how Ayers—or anyone else—might have been confused in the commotion. It was a hot, late summer Georgia afternoon. Ayers likely had his windows up and his air conditioning on. The officers were undercover, dressed in shabby clothes and ski-mask caps. The badges they had hanging from their necks, seen in this photo, were far from conspicuous.

    Let’s say that you (which would include 99 percent of the people reading this) aren't a drug dealer, or a mobster, or some other sort of career criminal. You've just returned to your car after getting cash from an ATM. An unmarked Escalade pulls up and three men jump out in masks and guns. Confusion and self-preservation is not only understandable, it ought to be predictable, even expected.

    This would have been a grossly disproportionate way for these cops to have approached Barrett, their arctual suspect, much less a guy they sought to question only about the 10 minutes he'd just spent in the car with her.

    The Stephens County, Georgia Sheriff's Department initially said Ayers was a drug suspect, but later had to retract. In her September interview with the North Georgian, Barrett told the paper that Ayers had been trying to help kick her drug habit, but later, while facing charges related to both the Ayers case and another incident, she told investigators that Ayers had in previous years paid her for sex. This testimony persuaded the grand jury not to indict the officers who killed Ayers. The pastor may have fled the police, the grand jury concluded, because he feared his reputation would be ruined if his relationship with Barrett were exposed.

    District Attorney Brian Rickman praised the Georgia Bureau of Investigation for going to "very extraordinary lengths" to insure the investigation into the shooting was fair. But Abigail Ayers' civil suit (PDF) calls that assessment into question. The complaint alleges that Officer Harrison, the cop who shot Ayers, wasn't even authorized to arrest him. On the day Ayers was killed, Harrison had yet to take a series of firearms training classes required for his certification as a police officer. More astonishing, Harrison apparently had no training at all in the use of lethal force.

    These allegations have since been confirmed by local TV station WSBTV and, after the fact, by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation. Despite the fact that Harrison had killed a man suspected of no crime months earlier without having undergone lethal-force training and certification, the officer was still carrying his badge and gun up until the time of the WSBTV report. Once the publicity hit, Harrison was suspended. Abigail Ayers' civil suit also alleges prior disciplinary problems with both officers Oxner and Harrison, including alleged drug use.

    The wasteful use of public resources to pursue a petty drug offender and the aggressive and short-sighted apprehension of Jonathan Ayers that led to his death are bad enough. That a police officer untrained in the use of lethal force and unqualified to be holding a badge and gun was put on a narcotics task force, and then placed in a position where he was able to shoot and kill a non-suspect is worse. But the kicker has to be that the subsequent police-led investigations of this high-profile case failed to turn up such a critical piece of information. It ought to cast more doubt on the already dubious notion that police shootings should only be investigated by other police officers.

    At the heart of this outrage, though, once again, is our increasingly demented, hysterical, all-too-literal drug war. Until we're ready to dispense with the notion that gun-toting cops in ski masks going commando at a public gas station is an appropriate response to an alleged $50 drug transaction, we're going to see a lot more Jonathan Ayerses.

    The Jonathan Ayers story was already outrageous enough. Last September, Ayers, a 28-year-old Baptist pastor from Lavonia, Georgia, was gunned down by a North Georgia narcotics task force in the parking lot of a gas station. Ayers had not been a suspect in any drug investigation. And even today, police acknowledge he was not using or trafficking in illicit drugs. Instead, Ayers had either been ministering to or having an affair with (depending on whom you believe) Johanna Kayla Jones Barrett, the actual target of the investigation.

    Ayers is yet more collateral damage in the boundlessly tragic and wasteful drug war, as are his widowed wife Abigail and the child she was carrying at the time of his death. But that's really only the beginning of this mess. In a lawsuit filed last week, Abigail Ayers makes some astonishing new allegations about the competence of the police officers who killed her husband, the supervisors who hired them, and the law enforcement agencies and the grand jury that investigated Ayers' death. Most damning: The police officer who killed Ayers wasn't even authorized to be carrying a gun or a badge.

    Hours before Ayers was killed, police say Johanna Barrett sold undercover officer Chance Oxner $50 worth of crack cocaine. According to an interview Barrett gave to the North Georgian newspaper shortly after Ayers' death, the pastor had seen her walking near a gas station on her way back to an extended-stay motel where she was living with her boyfriend. Ayers, who had known Barrett for a number of years, offered her a ride back to the motel and gave her the money in his pocket, $23, to help pay her rent.

    The police were trailing Barrett at the time. But instead of apprehending her at the motel, they instead followed Ayers, the stranger they'd just seen give her a ride and hand her some cash.

    Ayers then pulled into a nearby gas station to withdraw money from an ATM. Shortly after he got back into his car, a black Escalade tore into the parking lot. Three officers, all undercover, got out of the vehicle and pointed their guns at Ayers. The pastor, understandably, attempted to escape. As he pulled out of the station, Ayers grazed Officer Oxner with his car. Officer Billy Shane Harrison then opened fire, shooting Ayers in the stomach. (You can watch surveillance video of the altercation here.) Ayers continued to drive, fleeing the parking lot for about a thousand yards before eventually crashing his car. He died at the hospital.

    Ayers’ last words to his family and medical staff were that he thought he was being robbed. The police found no illicit drugs in his car, and there was no trace of any illegal substance in his body.

    If the story ended there, it would merely be enough to boil your blood. These officers jumped from an SUV waving their guns commando-style over a possible $50 drug transaction. Worse, the man they pounced upon wasn't the target of their investigation.

    The police claimed they announced themselves, but it isn't difficult to see how Ayers—or anyone else—might have been confused in the commotion. It was a hot, late summer Georgia afternoon. Ayers likely had his windows up and his air conditioning on. The officers were undercover, dressed in shabby clothes and ski-mask caps. The badges they had hanging from their necks, seen in this photo, were far from conspicuous.

    Let’s say that you (which would include 99 percent of the people reading this) aren't a drug dealer, or a mobster, or some other sort of career criminal. You've just returned to your car after getting cash from an ATM. An unmarked Escalade pulls up and three men jump out in masks and guns. Confusion and self-preservation is not only understandable, it ought to be predictable, even expected.

    This would have been a grossly disproportionate way for these cops to have approached Barrett, their arctual suspect, much less a guy they sought to question only about the 10 minutes he'd just spent in the car with her.

    The Stephens County, Georgia Sheriff's Department initially said Ayers was a drug suspect, but later had to retract. In her September interview with the North Georgian, Barrett told the paper that Ayers had been trying to help kick her drug habit, but later, while facing charges related to both the Ayers case and another incident, she told investigators that Ayers had in previous years paid her for sex. This testimony persuaded the grand jury not to indict the officers who killed Ayers. The pastor may have fled the police, the grand jury concluded, because he feared his reputation would be ruined if his relationship with Barrett were exposed.

    District Attorney Brian Rickman praised the Georgia Bureau of Investigation for going to "very extraordinary lengths" to insure the investigation into the shooting was fair. But Abigail Ayers' civil suit (PDF) calls that assessment into question. The complaint alleges that Officer Harrison, the cop who shot Ayers, wasn't even authorized to arrest him. On the day Ayers was killed, Harrison had yet to take a series of firearms training classes required for his certification as a police officer. More astonishing, Harrison apparently had no training at all in the use of lethal force.

    These allegations have since been confirmed by local TV station WSBTV and, after the fact, by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation. Despite the fact that Harrison had killed a man suspected of no crime months earlier without having undergone lethal-force training and certification, the officer was still carrying his badge and gun up until the time of the WSBTV report. Once the publicity hit, Harrison was suspended. Abigail Ayers' civil suit also alleges prior disciplinary problems with both officers Oxner and Harrison, including alleged drug use.

    The wasteful use of public resources to pursue a petty drug offender and the aggressive and short-sighted apprehension of Jonathan Ayers that led to his death are bad enough. That a police officer untrained in the use of lethal force and unqualified to be holding a badge and gun was put on a narcotics task force, and then placed in a position where he was able to shoot and kill a non-suspect is worse. But the kicker has to be that the subsequent police-led investigations of this high-profile case failed to turn up such a critical piece of information. It ought to cast more doubt on the already dubious notion that police shootings should only be investigated by other police officers.

    At the heart of this outrage, though, once again, is our increasingly demented, hysterical, all-too-literal drug war. Until we're ready to dispense with the notion that gun-toting cops in ski masks going commando at a public gas station is an appropriate response to an alleged $50 drug transaction, we're going to see a lot more Jonathan Ayerses.

    Radley Balko
    March 23, 2010
    Reason
    http://reason.com/archives/2010/03/23/another-senseless-drug-war-dea
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