Civil Trial Underway in 2009 Shooting Death of Lavonia Pastor

The trial over a civil suit filed in the death of Lavonia pastor the Rev. Jonathan Ayers is underway in Gainesville.

Opening statements took place Monday in U.S. District Court in Gainesville before Judge Richard W. Story.

The Rev. Ayers was shot at a Toccoa gas station in September 2009 by NCIS Drug Team Officer Billy Shane Harrison and later died from his injuries.

His widow, Abigail Ayers, filed a wrongful death lawsuit in 2010 seeking at least $5 million.

Her lawsuit has made claims of false arrest, assault and battery, and excessive force against Officer Harrison in connection to the death of her husband.

However, the drug agents say they had seen Ayers with the target of a drug investigation earlier in the day and were attempting to question him, when he attempted to drive away.

The defense previously argued in response to the suit that the agents were performing objectively reasonable, discretionary acts with the scope of their duties as police officers at the time.

In December 2009, a StephensCounty grand jury cleared agent Harrison of wrongdoing in the shooting; stating the use of deadly force was “legally justifiable” because agent Harrison feared for the safety of another Drug Team Agent involved, Chance Oxner.