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by Peter Moskos

September 10, 2009

More on Jonathan Ayers

As time goes on, I'm liking this shooting less and less.

I love how some conspiracy anti-police folks were saying there was never a woman in his car and the police made all that up.

There was.
Stephens County court records now indicate the woman riding with Ayers the day he was shot was Kala Jones Barrett, whose home is listed as a Relax Inn in Toccoa. Warrants say she was wanted for coke peddling. Her father, Joseph Jones, has also confirmed his daughter was in the car that day. But she says Ayers was only giving her a ride and providing ministerial advice.
That's from the Village Voice and their True Crime Report.

The Atlanta Journal Constitution reports:
Ayers was able to drive away from the Shell station but crashed into a utility pole a short distance away. It was there that Ayers, according to Carpenter, asked paramedics “Who shot me?”
The store owner, Joe Joseph, said he didn’t know the agents were law enforcement officers and it looked like they were firing at each other.
The agents were assigned to a task force that investigates drug cases in Stephens, Habersham and Rabun Counties. Ayers caught their attention because he was with a woman who twice sold drugs to the officers, said Bankhead.

“What they saw was indicative of drug transaction,” Bankhead said. “They didn’t know the guy. They followed him to the convenience store and tried to arrest him.”

The woman’s name has not been released because she is still being questioned about the shooting. She is being held in the Stephens County Jail on drug charges.

Carpenter [Ayer's brother in law] said people often called the Shoal Creek Baptist Church for help.

“She was asking for cash and he brought her some cash to help her out,” Carpenter said. “Jonathan sought to do exactly what God wanted him to do.”
Gulp. What if that's the truth?

Steve Huff on a CBS-news blog says: "According to investigators who spoke to the TV station, no drugs were found on Ayers’ person or in his vehicle."

The cop in me is always suspicious. I first assumed Ayers had bought drugs or was getting a little something on side. That doesn't necessarily defend the shooting, but still, it matters.

But one thing I tried to do as a cop was always keep open the slight possibility that somebody was actually, God forbid, telling the complete truth. Granted I can't remember a single case where that actually happened. But I always liked to keep that possibility open. Maybe that meant I bought into a lie for an extra five minutes. I like to think it made me a better cop.

Now I'm starting to think Ayers was 100% innocent. He let the woman out of his car. If he had bought drugs, we would have had some on him. Maybe this really was an honest man of God trying to help somebody.

Why's it so hard to imagine that guys jumping out a car with guns drawn scared the bejesus out of him? Why's it so hard to imagine that plainclothes cops don't look like cops?

Why isn't this bigger news?

I guess there's no Al Sharpton for white people.


Marc S. said...

The last sentence sounded a little crass at first, but then I realized that I'm still hearing about Gates in the media and it's always framed as a race issue instead of what it really is, a police/civil rights issue.

Our nation's priorities are fucked.

PCM said...

I tried that line out in my classes and it got a good laugh. And my father always told me, "always keep 'em laughing."

But the real reason I mention that is I was surprised that almost none of my students had heard of this case. And yet they all know about Sean Bell.

Of course this *is* NYC and Sean Bell is local. But I have the feeling that Sean Bell was national news (wasn't it?) and this isn't.

There are a lot of parallels. But if anything, Ayers is *more* innocent than Sean Bell. Bell didn't deserve to die, but he did many things that contributed to him being killed by police. He was drunk and talked about having a gun. Ayers, best I can tell, did *nothing* wrong. He ran away from people with guns. That's not wrong if he didn't know they were police.

Man, I know of too many deaths that wouldn't have happened if only the police were wearing uniforms. Maybe that's the answer.

Anonymous said...

and marked cars and sirens and flashing lights.

Training police not to put their bodies in front of and behind a running vehicle is another smart idea.

Question: Is there any testimony to the affect that Ayers gave the drug dealer money? This post seems to assume that. Last version I heard was that the woman departed the vehicle when they got to the Shell. The version before that had her out of the vehicle before he arrived at the Shell. I am interested in whether Ayers gave the woman money because speaking to / being with a known drug dealer is not generally held by courts to be reasonable suspicion in and of itself. It is a factor supporting reasonable suspicion, but there generally has to be more than a conversation with a drug dealer to have reasonable suspicion to stop. If Ayers had handed her money then they clearly would have had RS, but this is the first place I have seen it suggested that he did hand her money.

Anonymous said...

Oh, and if you read the guy's blog, you can plainly see that: (i) he isn't the cocaine sort; (ii) he isn't the john sort; and (iii) he would be the sort to donate a begging woman money out of charitable impulse.

Anonymous said...

I'm local and can tell you that he actually IS the "John" sort. This woman, Ms. Barrett, states she has been his customer for years. Another woman has also come forward in a the town where his church is located and stated that he has been her "client" as well.

PCM said...

There is no such thing as a "cocaine sort" or a "john sort."

But I do think it's safe to say that he wasn't a hardened criminal loving the thug life.

And let's say the cops saw a transaction consistent with buy drugs. Let's say he handed over money and then she grasped his hands.

Even if that didn't happen, letting a stranger drug dealer into your car for a while would certainly make me reasonably susicious.

I'm not saying the cops didn't have good reason to be suspicious. I'm saying there are better ways to make an arrest. For starters, if you feel the need to approach the car with guns drawn, why not call for uniformed backup?

Police are trained not to put their bodies if front or behind a running car... but in the real world, things don't always work so neatly. But clearly being behind a backing up car was not the tactical move of the decade.

Anonymous said...

Come forward? To whom? The media? At a town hall meeting?

Amazing what people will say to have drug charges dropped, especially stacked ones.

Anonymous said...

Even if that didn't happen, letting a stranger drug dealer into your car for a while would certainly make me reasonably susicious.

who said that the drug dealer was a stranger to him. Drug dealers are not "walking reasonable suspicion" that automatically give police the right to stop anyone they talk to or get a ride from. Drug dealers do not sell drugs to everybody they meet or know.

Policemen seem to think that they have automatic probable cause against everybody a drug dealer talks to or walks with or rides with. the cases do not bear this out and police should know better.

That said: not saying there wasn't RS here. However, given the fact that police were so secretive about the informant(s), I will be incredibly skeptical for their asserted supported grounds for RS (other than gave ride to drug dealer) when they finally see fit to let us civilians know what those supporting grounds are.

Anonymous said...

Correction: --Policemen seem to think that they have automatic REASONABLE SUSPICION against everybody a drug dealer talks to or walks with or rides with. --

Anonymous said...

Police are trained not to put their bodies if front or behind a running car... but in the real world, things don't always work so neatly.

The day it stops bcoming an excuse to fire the pistol is the day that the police learn to approach from the side. No sooner, sadly.

Look at it this way: shooting at a car does not stop it. Rather, shooting at a moving car does a couple of things:

1. Diverts some portion of the shooter's attention from the more important task of getting out of the way.

2. Incentivizes the driver to try to run the shooter over. This case is a good example. Jonathan Ayers might still be alive if he had turned hard toward his killer instead of turning the wheel hard away from his killer.

This rule (and its a newish rule) about shooting at moving cars is not about officr safety. Rather, it is a loophole in the fleeing felons rule, which police are far too happy to put themselves at risk just to use.

NewOldSalt said...

I have to admit that scrutinizing the details seems to overlook that "prohibition is evil*" and should not exist in the first place.

* Reverend Dean Becker.

To me, this is just another "Fill up at the filling station."
Quote 1, Reasoning

Marc S. said...

Anon, I feel a lot of the time cops in a situation like that act the way they do because they can. It's the impression i get from a lot of veteran cops i chat with about the boys on the ninja teams as well.

I was talking about this with a former LEO tonight and wondered if there was there any reason to use undercovers to make an arrest in that situation in that fashion? From a tactical perspective, none that I can see and none that he could either. If they wanted to take in a person of interest with minimal risk to themselves and the public, why didn't one of the undercovers confront him badge in hand while he was walking through the parking lot as opposed to gun in hand while he's piloting a 4000lb weapon?

Well, when you do that you don't get to play with all the fun toys and get that kickass adrenaline rush.

Anonymous said...

They have now released the name of the drug dealer / prostitute that Ayers was with. No indication that she has lawyered up yet and I believe she is still in custody -- so there are a couple of good signs. Hopefully she can be induced to co-operate with the investigation and help the public understand why these things happen and see that if you don't do crimes then you won't have police coming up on you with guns drawn.

PCM said...

Tell that to Berwyn Heights Mayor Cheye Calvo. Police should not come rushing up on you with guns drawn for any of these mala prohibita crimes. Police should not be in that business.

Who was hurt here before Ayers? Who was the victim?

...But I very interested in what she will say even if the least reliable testimony comes from jail-house snitches trying to knock years of their drug sentence.

And if Ayers was buying drugs, why didn't he have any on him?

Perhaps he really was just giving her a ride a trying to get her into his church. Unlikely, yes. But not impossible.

Anonymous said...

It is pretty obvious that he was going to get the money and she was going to get the drugs. Hopefully she and and some of the other locals can give an idea of just how often Reverend Ayers purchased and/or sold cocaine in this manner, and also what other drugs he bought, and also how much prostitution he did. Sometimes johns even beat prostitutes. These criminals are in a real position to help the police so I hope they do -- it would help start to make up for their crimes. Any deals on sentence reduction can be informal so that that doesn't have to become some kind of court issue.

PCM said...

I would be with you if she had still been it his car. But she wasn't. Don't get me wrong: you might be right. But maybe he was just getting money.

I would be curious if drugs were found in Ayers system. Because if not...

Anonymous said...

then he was a seller -- and that is even worse!

Anonymous said...

I knew the Rev. Jonathan Paul Ayers....He was an outstanding , above and beyond the call of an awesome young man...My description of Jonathan is he was an "old soul " living in a "young body"..He often reminded me of someone that would have lived all his dreams if he had been born in the era when a handshake was as sufficient as his own signature...A mans word was just that...His word and it was strong and it was honest...
I have scolded Jonathan in the past on 2 different occasions for picking up hitch hikers...That is just who he was...His heart was as big as the moon and his light would shine as bright as the sun....He has ate from my table on different occasions......Our family Loved this young man...We valued his positive outlook for such a young person...he really got it...He lived his life for the purpose of Gods work and he always walked and spoke on "Faith"...
The so called authoritories can paint this picture to look like anything they want..Never will they paint it to discourage me of who this young man was....To know Jonathan was to know who he was......To not know him ..well that was just your loss...what could have been done different this day? 1.) shoot out a tire or 2.) send a uniformed deputy to him tell him you need to talk to him..(he would have respected that uniform) 3.) ran his tag number and followed up from there ( would this not have given his address ? 4.) OR the driver of the black escalade could have totally blocked him in where he could not have backed out .......You Messed up Stephens County....But you know God had this all planned out long before any of us new this would come to pass....Ask yourself why ? I believe in time we all will know....I just pray for his family to keep the strength...And to not agree to anything being swept under a rug...To see it through...Keep the Faith....Someone must pay for the wrongs on this day..See that they do...

PCM said...

Thank you for your comment.

In terms of police tactics, I particularly like your options 2, 3, and 4. They all would have worked.

I am very sorry for your loss. I shouldn't have happened.

selahV said...

I cannot get this out of my mind or heart. I do not believe for a second that this man was anything other than a preacher who wanted to help this young woman. Who is to say he even knew she was a prostitute or drug dealer? If you're going to speculate, let me tell you how many people have come to my preacher husband asking for help in one way or the other and he ministered to without concern for his own well-being. This is a messed up situation. And to blame Pastor Ayers for his own death is ridiculous. If the real truth comes out here, you will all see he is innocent. If not here, then on judgment day. Jesus was His Lord. That is obvious from his blog and his precious wife's testimony of faith since his death.

Many men who preach the Word of God far outnumber the weirdos that are exposed in the news media. Far outnumber. I think this was a horrible mistake on the part of the officers and they jumped to conclusions with guns drawn when it was totally unnecessary to even draw weapons. Pastor Ayers obviously didn't show one ounce of threat to anyone until they came at him with guns drawn. And in his situation, I would have run them over or gunned my motor, too. Especially when I had no earthly reason in the world to think police officers were the ones drawing weapons against me in a parking lot where I'd just withdrawn money from an ATM.

I pray for this family. This church. This community. I think we've all lost. The officers. Abby Ayers. Abby's unborn son. It's tragic. And sad. Very sad.

Hariette Petersen [note I am not anonymous...nor am I cowardly to use my name]. When people withold their names and accuse an innocent man of trash, they are without integrity.

Maman said...

I have never been an admirer of Al Sharpton. I am Registered Indeoendent and an older lady of color, with Revolutionary and War of 1812 patriot ancestors ( and other since who fought in every American war, also serving in peacetime). No one tells me how to think. I wonder if this blogger and a few commenters read the news enough to even give "the devil his due". The cae of Michel Mineo made interntional news.

Peter Moskos said...

With all due respect: so what?

A lot of things make international news. It doesn't mean Mineo was telling the truth.