Opening statements start in case of deputy accused of killing church pastor

by: Craig Lucie Updated:

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HALL COUNTY, Ga. - The case of a deputy who shot and killed a church pastor is now in court. Opening statements took place Monday in the civil suit the pastor's wife filed.

The shooting and confrontation was nearly all caught on camera. Abigail Ayers’ attorneys showed the jury the video along with Billy Shane Harrison’s attorneys.

Ayers filed the wrongful death lawsuit alleging excessive use of deadly force, assault, battery and false arrest against Deputy Sheriff Harrison.

Harrison shot her husband, Jonathan Ayers, as he sped out of a Toccoa gas station parking lot.

Harrison's attorneys walked the jury through the video saying after Ayers heard him say "police," Ayers "looked at him with that ‘oh no’ look on his face. 'I'm caught!' And the wheels started turning."

But Ayers' attorneys said the video shows Harrison was the aggressor.

“You can't shoot an unarmed man and then provide false statements about what happened," said Richard Hendrix.

In a 2009 interview, a witness told Channel 2 Action News what he saw happen.

“Two guys trying to get him out the car,” said Rodney Jones.

Jones was waiting at a nearby traffic light.

“Two agents got out and identified themselves as police with their badges and step out the car. He put the car in reverse and runs over and strikes one of the agents. He puts it in drive and threatens the other agent,” said Stephens County Sheriff Randy Shirley in another 2009 interview.

Shirley told Channel 2 that the undercover agents wanted to speak to pastor Ayers about a woman under investigation who had just gotten out of the pastor’s car. The agents saw him give her cash. Ayers’ attorneys said he was helping her pay her rent, but Harrison's attorneys said it was reasonable suspicion that quickly turned into an imminent threat.

Harrison’s attorneys told the jury that hindsight is 20/20, but the vehicle was being used as a deadly weapon.

Ayers’ attorneys said the officers rushed the car in plain clothes in an unmarked unit. They said  it’s on a 911 call that Ayers didn't know they were officers. They said he thought he was being robbed.



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