$2.3 Million Judgement in Excessive Force Case

On February 20, 2014, a jury in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Georgia in Gainesville returned a verdict for Abigail Marilyn Ayers as the Surviving Spouse and Administratrix of the Estate of Jonathan Paul Ayers, her late husband, against Billy Shane Harrison in the amount of $2.3 million. The jury specifically found that Defendant Harrison intentionally committed acts that violated Jonathan Ayers’ constitutional rights not to be subjected to excessive or unreasonable force by a law enforcement officer. The facts of this case involved Reverend Jonathan Ayers who had committed no crime being shot to death on September 1, 2009 in broad daylight in a crowded parking lot of a Shell Station located in downtown Toccoa, Georgia. Billy Shane Harrison, an undercover officer for the Mountain Judicial Circuit Criminal Investigation and Suppression Team Task Force dressed to conceal his identity, had exited an unmarked Cadillac Escalade and, displaying his gun, hurriedly approached the vehicle of Reverend Ayers.

A number of witnesses testified they felt Ayers was being robbed or carjacked. Ayers attempted to escape the perceived peril, and it was then that Harrison fired shots through the passenger side door and the windshield of Reverend Ayers’ automobile. The shot through the windshield ultimately tore into Reverend Ayers and virtually destroyed his liver. Reverend Ayers bled to death several hours later while being treated at the Stephens County Hospital.

To attempt to explain the shooting, Billy Shane Harrison contended he was acting in self defense, claiming he thought Reverend Ayers was trying to run over him. The trial lasted 8 ½ days in Federal Court in Gainesville, Georgia with the jury rejecting Harrison’s self-defense assertions and specifically finding that Harrison had employed excessive and unreasonable force. The total amount of the verdict including medical expenses and burial expenses slightly exceeded $2.3 million dollars. A hearing is expected within the next 30 to 45 days at which time the plaintiff’s attorneys will seek an additional award of Mrs. Ayers’ attorney fees.

Abigail Ayers has expressed her relief and gratitude that the jury determined her husband’s life had been wrongfully taken. Mrs. Ayers was represented in her case by Richard Hendrix and his partners, Steve Wisebram and Michael Sullivan of the firm Finch McCranie LLP of Atlanta and Roland Stroberg of the law firm of Myers & Stroberg, LLP in Gainesville, Georgia.

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