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Jury awards $2.3 million in pastorís wrongful death comment (0)

February 27, 2014

GAINESVILLE, Ga. — A federal jury has awarded more than $2.3 million to the widow of a Georgia Baptist pastor shot and killed in a botched drug investigation in 2009.

Jurors in U.S. District Court in Gainesville, Ga., determined that Deputy Billy Shane Harrison “intentionally committed acts that violated Jonathan Ayers’ constitutional right not to be subjected to excessive or unreasonable force by a law enforcement officer” when Ayers, the pastor of Shoal Creek Baptist Church, Lavonia, Ga., unknowingly wandered into an undercover drug sting Sept. 1, 2009, in Toccoa, Ga.

Ayers, 28, became a person of interest when undercover officers in a multi-county drug task force saw him give a ride to a woman they believed to be waiting to buy drugs from her dealer. Church members later said Ayers had been trying to minister to the woman, urging her to get off drugs and turn her life around.

Abigail Ayers, acting both as Ayers’ surviving spouse and administratrix of his estate, filed a civil lawsuit March 15, 2010, claiming that “without legal cause or excuse,” Harrison and fellow officers “were in the process of unreasonably seizing the decedent and while unreasonably violating his rights under the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution.” The lawsuit accused the officers of violating proper police procedure by not calling for assistance of a clearly marked police vehicle or backup by a uniformed officer.

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