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by Peter Moskos

December 19, 2009

Ayers killing "justified"

Indeed, you read it here first (many thanks to my anonymous tipster).

Here's the story by Stephen Gurr in the Gainesville Times.

Of course regardless of this decision and any lack of criminal conviction, the Ayers' family will get a lot of money in some civil case. But no amount of money will bring Jonathan Ayers back. The whole situation--up to and including the shooting death of Ayers--this was bad policing.


Anonymous said...

Sounds like the use of force expert brought before the grand jury messed up real bad and needs to lose his credentials.

Anonymous said...


Does this grand jury investigation only clear the shooter who's bullet killed Jonathan Ayers, or does it clear both shooters? Or is the other shooter automatically cleared because he (or she) missed?

PCM said...

I would depend on who was up for indictment. I would have to assume that both were and both were cleared.

And I think the use-of-force experts performed extremely well in that they did exactly what they were brought in to do.

Anonymous said...

The use of force expert was brought in to say that the shooting of Jonathan Ayers was good, noncriminal policework, and it is obvious that that is what he did. If you are cool with that then I guess there is not much anybody can say to talk you out of that.

I remain convinced that he should lose his expert credentials for that absolute travesty of justice that he has materially helped bring about. Part of Rev. Ayers' blood is on his hands now. Not that he cares, or you care, or any policeman would care about that. I am just saying that I don't like it at all, speaking as a regular citizen without special powers.

Also, even if Billy Shane Harrison somehow got off on the basis that Ayers call was slowly backing up the car when Harrison took aim, the second (still unnamed) shooter didn't have that defense at all.

PCM said...

I'm not cool with that! You're not understanding me (perhaps I'm not being clear enough).

I'm simply pointing out that the "experts" did exactly what they were paid to do. The prosecutor did not want the grand jury to indict the officers (otherwise they would have indicted).

When I say the experts performed "extremely well," I mean that literally, not morally.

And alas, nobody ever bestows "expert" credentials upon you. So there's nothing to be taken away. Once you testify in court, you're an "expert."

Anonymous said...

He claims to be a "Court Qualified Expert" (his words) in the follwoing areas:
- Police and Civilian Use of Force
- Incident Reconstruction
- Ballistics and Wound Ballistics
- Firearms and Firearms Training
- Defensive Skills
- Pepper Spray and Chemical Agents
- Police Training, Procedures and Policies
- Stressors in Conflicts Involving Firearms
- Critical Incident Management
- Hunter Safety

To the extent he is telling the truth and courts actually have "qualified" him in these areas, the courts involved should now rescind these "qualifications" as soon as possible in view of his actions in the Jonathan Ayers slaying case. He could have gotten up in front of the grand jury and said the truth here, regardless of what whoever was paying him wanted. Epic fail and the "qualifications" (again, assuming he is telling the truth about that need yanked / recinded / reversed / overruled / noted-to-be-in-grave-error. Even if that means opening up some old cases where he has testified and giving the plaintiff a new trial, one that has not suffered the affects of his doubtful (at least in hindsight) wisdom.

Unknown said...

Do you think they killed this guy knowing he was not a threat?

How do his co-workers react to this sort of thing? Rally around the officers for doing a good job? Or do they end up shunned as the guys who murdered an unarmed pastor?

It seems that something like this should go immediately to federal authorities. There is no way the prosecutors could be expected to be impartial. They are on the same team as the police.

PCM said...

I do not think for a second that these officers killed Ayers without thinking he was a threat.

Officers do not go to work thinking, "It sure would be nice to kill somebody today." That is so obvious to me, but perhaps it needs repeating.

These guys thought Ayers *was* a threat. But they were wrong. Very wrong. So now what?

Police are and should be given the benefit of the doubt to make mistakes. Mistakes, even fatal police mistakes, are not crimes (eg: Sean Bell or Amadou Diallo).

Where I think this becomes criminal is because they made one bad tactical decision after another to put themselves in a situation where their mistake would lead to the fatal shooting of an innocent man. Negligence comes to mind. Perhaps this was their training (in which case the dept gets blamed). Perhaps they knowingly violated departmental policy (in which case it would be their ass on the line).

It's the totality of the situation that bothers me. It's not just that they were shooting at a car driving away (though that bothers me too). It's everything. It's choosing this location to stop and question the man. It's using plainclothes officers to do so. It's coming with gun drawn. It's putting yourself behind a car that just might want to get away. These are all bad choices. Had the police just make one good choice, none of this would have happened.

If this is a justified police-involved shooting, it is hard to imagine any police-involved shooting that would not be.

That being said, I think and would hope their coworkers would support them. If I were their coworker, I would give my personal support. They made a mistake. We all make mistakes. I feel sorry for the officers. But that doesn't mean they shouldn't pay.

I would support the officers as I would support any friend or brother who made a fatal and perhaps criminally fatal mistake. I would shake their hand and tell them to hang in their. I would be very happy I am not them. But I would not go to court every day to show solidarity.

Look, there's no one opinion among police. I'm sure there are those in their department that think it was 100% justified and those who think it was murder and those, probably the majority, who have very conflicted feelings.

Anonymous said...

They didn't think he was a threat. They purposely wanted to make him look like a threat so they could shoot him. Standing behind somebody's car in a parking lot as they are backing out: (i) doesn't take a lot of courage; (ii) was not an accident in this case; and (iii) was done precisely so they could shoot Ayers. If anyone purposely provokes a violent situation, where someone would be expected to act in justified self-defense, then the killer doesn't get to use the justified self-defense as a defense to murder.

The same reason that those officers were not in uniform is the same reason that they are murderers here. The fact that they did what they did with no uniforms on and with an unmarked Escalade shows that they DID want to kill Jonathan Ayers before they even met him. You say different. You are dead wrong.

Anonymous said...


No. The most apt description is "recklessness showing an abandoned and malignant heart." That is a PERFECT description of how Harrison and his unnamed partner acted and how they conspired to act.

Anonymous said...

Mistake, huh?

PCM said...

If you can look so deeply and accurately into the hearts and minds of people you don't know and haven't met, I have no idea why you're bothering with my opinion.

You have it all figured out. End of story.

Anonymous said...

Because you are in a better position to help the Ayers family, both with the Federal Grand jury (if any and I hope there is) and with the civil suit they have threatened to bring.

I mean, if I can't persuade you to go against the blue wall here, I can't, but I think you can understand why I feel that I need to at least try. You look at any picture of Jonathan Ayers and you can see that the man wants to help people. You look at that picture of Billy Shane Harrison and you can see he is a cold blooded killer. If you see those things, the video at the gas station suddenly makes complete sense, and it makes me (at least) passionately want to see justice get done that looks to not get done without somebody's help. Somebody like you. Somebody who isn't expected to break with the blue wall and testify against the shooters (both of them!). Somebody who isn't expected to hold the grand jury "expert" out to ridicule in the academic community, etc., etc.

You are in a unique position to do some good here that I simply am not. All I can do is try to convince you, and others situated similarly to you, to help.

PCM said...

Look, I always call them like I see them, but I can't speak intelligently about someone's testimony I didn't hear. You get me a transcript and I'll be happy to comment.

I'm on the record as being against the shooting of Jonathan Ayers. I think it was a bad shooting. I don't think the police should have been there in the first. I don't think they should have shot at a car driving away.

For all I know about the police involved (which is very little), they may be foolish stupid cowboys. Or gun-loving hate-filled bastards. Or god-fearing patriotic men. Or all or none of the above! I don't know them.

When I look at that picture of Billy Shane Harrison and I see an idiot who likes posing with guns. But you know what, all I really know is that he likes posing with guns. Thinking he's an idiot merely reflects my prejudices and willingness to stereotype.

That picture could be any number of people I worked with, good people, many of whom are still my friends (albeit friends with very different politically and social values).

But I will assume that these officers, like every police officer I've ever known--hell, every person I've ever known--are not malicious cold-blooded murderers who kill strangers for pleasure.

You may overestimate my ability to help. I'm not a get-out-the-troops "no justice no peace" kind of guy. You need an Al Sharpton. Or the Al Sharpton. But I can't help but notice he's been strangely quiet about this travesty.

And WWJD? What would Jonathan Ayers do? Knowing very little about Jonathan Ayers the man, I can't help but think that his kind and generous soul would be preaching about love and forgiveness.

Anonymous said...

Al Sharpton is not needed. What is needed is a man to write a Washington Post editorial that says:

"I was trained as a police officer. I am now considered an expert in police work. I believe the Ayers shooting was not just a tragedy, but a crime."

Al Sharpton can't say that. Because he isn't considered an expert. You are and can, if you can just find it in your heart. If Billy Shane Harrison wants Christian forgiveness he needs to repent first. And he is a lot likelier to repent at Bubba's House where he is now. IOW, you can help Billy Shane Harrison get to a place in his heart where he will deserve and get forgiveness, just like Rev. Ayers would have (and I like to think, still does) want.

I sure haven't heard Billy Shane Harrison admit a mistake, much less the abandoned and malignant heart style recklessness he showed back on September first in that video. Hopefully, with your help, we can make him say those words that we as a society want, need and deserve to hear him say (and the other shooter, too).

Drunk drivers don't go out meaning to kill anybody with their negligence. They are sorry when they do. Because of the prison part. That is what makes them sorry. That is what needs to happen here, but we need some honest, good and just police experts to make it happen.

Meh said...

"They didn't think he was a threat. They purposely wanted to make him look like a threat so they could shoot him."

This is such a ridiculous statement I don't even know where to begin. Why on Earth would these officer set out to execute a man in a public parking lot? If they were out for blood, it would be so easy to drop a gang banger in an alley and plant a gun. Stop making such silly announcements. It just make the rest of your comments that less credible.

"Al Sharpton is not needed. What is needed is a man to write a Washington Post editorial that says:

"I was trained as a police officer. I am now considered an expert in police work. I believe the Ayers shooting was not just a tragedy, but a crime.""

Perhaps the experts don't say that because it really was a good shooting? I know that is a crazy thought but you weren't there and probably was at the trial either. How you do know? Based on what I know about it, it sounds okay to me. Maybe the good preacher should have not tried to run?

PCM said...

You make a very good point that if the cops wanted blood, there is much easier blood to get.

But the good preacher would not have run if only the good preacher had known that the guys with guns were police.

According to the paramedics, Ayers' last words were, "Who shot me?"

This was not a good shooting.

Anonymous said...

I imagine that you have some pretty good access to crime rate statistics. How many homicides does Toccoa, Georgia average per decade (other than police killing suspects, I mean)?

It is possible that Billy Shane Harrison and his partners got a bit impatient waiting for the gangbangers to show up.

Meh said...

It is also possible that you are so biased against the police that you are incapable of being rational about the mindset of the officers. If you think that we go out there itching to shoot someone, you are so off base that it's impossible to have a discussion with you.

No officer would willingly put themselves through the ordeal of the aftermath of a police shooting.

PCM said...

Well said, Johnny Law.

It is a non-starter to argue that these or any police went out hunting for people to kill. It makes everything else said sound a wee-bit crazy.

But leaving aside Mr. Numbers' bias, he or she does make some very good points.

In September, Toccoa had its first homicide in seven years. Toccoa is not Baltimore's Eastern District.

The police had no reason to think Ayers was armed (except of course for that all-to-general link between "drugs and violence").

If they wished to stop and question Mr. Ayers, they could have done a "routine" car stop or simply approached him as he walked to or from his car.

I cannot fathom why these plain-clothes police officers felt the need to bum-rush Ayers with their guns drawn and only after allowing Ayers access to the only potential weapon he had, his car.

And what's the rational for shooting in a gas station at a car driving away? As the father of my friend likes to say, "No good is coming from that."

And let's not forget the big picture: police shot and killed an innocent preacher who had done nothing wrong (in fact, he had done good) before the police showed up. At a moral level, that should matter a bit.

I cannot defend this shooting or, given the facts we know, figure out how others can.

Short of "the gun accidentally fired" or "I didn't mean to pull the trigger," if you think this is a "good" shooting, can you imagine, even in theory, what a "bad" shooting looks like?

Meh said...

Of course I can. No offense PCM but you have no experience working plainclothes. I've got several years doing it. Deals go down fast and sometimes there just isn't time to get a uniformed presence onscene. You often don't know exactly when or where things will play out. Nsure it is ideal to have a marked patrol unit but sometimes you have to roll with it.

As for going in with guns drawn, how do the officers know who they are dealing with? They don't. If they simply walked up to a car after a drug deal and got shot, that would be bad tactics. The crime stats for that city doesn't matter when it comes to oficer safety.

I know you are against the war on drugs and I can understand why. However until that ends, drug dealers do often carry weapons. The people being stopped could be gang members from out of town for all the officers know.

PCM said...

Johnny: No offense taken.

I understand that sometimes you have to "play with the cards you are dealt."

But to me, your points are (as you might expect) just another argument in favor of ending drug prohibition.

I mean, get real. Police just killed a innocent pastor because he was preaching to sinning drug-addicted woman.

That's not a crime. That's what priests are supposed to do! And somehow, in some people's minds, it was all OK because this innocent guy had contact with a drug addict and ran from men with guns.

That was his only crime. That's not OK. It's fucked up. Big time.

And look, I never policed in a low-crime neighborhood. I always assumed people might be armed. But here? In wherever-fucking Georgia this happened police got to be all SWAT and shit?

My District had a murder every week. This place has one murder every fucking decade. Perhaps Toccoa needs a more gentle form of policing. I'm just sayin'.

When police start killing innocent people, we really need to rethink strategy. And if you want to dismiss this thinking as simple "legalize drugs" B.S., go ahead.

When shit like this happens--and we (or you) as police are willing to defend it--it's a good time to ask: what have we, as police, become?

Meh said...

We don't know that he is an innocent preacher. All we know is that he in the car with a female who was part of a drug transaction and that he ran when the police tried to stop him. His career choice does not automatically make him an innocent victim.

I actually agree with much of what you say about the war on drugs being a huge waste of time, money, and lives. I spent several years in a narcotics unit. We kicked in alot of doors, seized a bunch of dope, and put many people in jail for a long time.

It was a wild ride that was incredibly fun and often a complete waste of time. Looking back I realized that we didn't make a dent in the drug problem. That's why I left for a different unit and am happily doing other kinds of policework.

However don't blame these officers for bad choices the preacher man made. He was trying to get away and the officers had to protect themselves. No way they should be punished for that. The good and bad of the WOD is an entirely different matter.

PCM said...


All the evidence, and I mean *all*, point to Ayers being guilty of nothing but Christian charity.

I understand that Ayers' charity is also good grounds for officers' reasonable suspicion.

But let us assume (because of his last words) that Ayers did not know these guys were police.

If that were the case, would that change anything in your opinion? Who do you think the onus of police identification should be on: The police or the public?

I mean, the whole point of being plain-clothed is so that people do not know you are police. Why should it be so surprising when that actually happens?

I blame the officers for the bad choices they made: 1) approaching Ayers armed, 2) approaching in plain clothes, 3) not making in clear they were police, 4) approaching Ayers when he was in his car and yet 5) not doing a normal car stop, 6) placing themselves in harm's way behind the car, and 7) shooting at a car driving away (in a gas station, no less).

Hey, we all make mistakes. And I'll always give police the benefit of the doubt. But when you make that many mistakes and you end up killing an innocent man, I think you should be punished.

And I don't think their actions can be separated completely from the war on drugs (In a criminal trial, yes. But discussing things here, no). They were on a drug investigation and had the mentality of soldiers in that drug war. That's exactly what leads to innocent people getting killed. And it doesn't have to happen.

I like hearing about your experiences in the narcotics. While you learned a good lesson, of course the narcotics unit is still doing what it always does. If only it were just a waste of time.

Not An Idiot said...

Its plain and simple to me that if you come to this sight then you are already looking to go against any law or persons who enforce it. That is fine. I usually look at these sights and mark them off to pure ignorance. Here though, the ignorance is too much. You people have obviously not looked at the now public investigation that was conducted by the GBI. You obviously dont see that the expert witness that was used, who is from Virginia, has a record that sends more cops to prison than not. You obviously dont know that the GBI agents that investigated this case sent two other Georgia deputies to prison only a few months earlier. You obviously have your ignorant minds made up before you come here in an attempt to make the rest of us as ignorant as yourself. Listen to the facts and interviews. Learn that the Grand Jury made a good decision by listening to the facts of the case and were not biased by the defamation that the news media broadcasted to try and boost their ratings. All of which never took into account the pain that the officers involved in this must be going through. I am sickened by the fact that our country has this caliber of people in it and that I have defended those morons right to their opinions. People such as yourselves will be the demise of this country. SICKENING

PCM said...

Merry Christmas and God bless.

Anonymous said...

Unbelieveable how stupid and ignorant almost every person on this stupid site can be. It is really hard for me to swallow the fact that this country is full of idiots such as the majority on this site. I guess that the grand jury, that unanimously cleared Billy Shane Harrison, must have all been bought off right. Oh and the GBI agents, the same ones that just recently sent two Georgia deputies to prison, must have been bought off as well. Oh yeah, and the expert witness must have too been bought off. He has a very one sided record of convicting more officers than not. Must have been bought off huh. Damn, this Billy Shane Harrison must really have a lot of money, I mean we all know that the police makes a lot of money. Wait, what about the witness testimony that was actually at the scene, the one that very clearly said that the driver appeared to be aiming for the officer that fired. Cant forget bout that one. Lots of money put out here I guess. Come on you idiots, if this had been anybody other than someone who called himself a pastor would you people even care. No unless you are, which this is probably the case, a criminal yourself who has had your ass busted for being the idiot you are and you have personal reasons to come on here and try to make the officer look bad. Keep living your ignorant life and Ill keep hoping that officers like Billy Shane Harrison keep working the way they do and keep busting your stupid asses. Losers.

ChristMotForbud said...

Deals go down fast and sometimes there just isn't time to get a uniformed presence onscene. You often don't know exactly when or where things will play out. Nsure it is ideal to have a marked patrol unit but sometimes you have to roll with it.

Sadly, this sounds remarkably like "shoot first, ask questions later."

We don't know that he is an innocent preacher. All we know is that he in the car with a female who was part of a drug transaction and that he ran when the police tried to stop him. His career choice does not automatically make him an innocent victim.

Ah, yes, "guilty until proven innocent." But your last sentence belies much of what you've written above; that somehow cops are always doing the right thing or going by the book, etc…

It was a wild ride that was incredibly fun and often a complete waste of time.

Here you clearly point out one of the key problems. Many people's drug of choice is their own adrenaline system.

But instead of rappelling, or paint ball guns, or wrestling bulls, etc… to get their fix of "feeling alive," some folks (not pointing the finger at you) have chosen to take up arms against fellow citizens. Some of those are so afraid of the source of their adrenaline highs going away, they use lies and verbal terror to scare politicians and the general public in to maintaining the Evil Religion of Hate that is the Drug War.

However don't blame these officers for bad choices the preacher man made.

Aha, now it seems you've gone past "guilty until proven innocent, and just gone straight to 'guilty.'" Since you use the plural "choices" it seems you are also saying that his other "bad" choices are trying to help someone obviously in need of help. "The world" sees things this way, kiss-butt to those higher on the ladder than you, despise those lower on the ladder. Stay away from the naked, beaten, and robbed guy on the road! That "bad energy" might rub off on you!

Dear Mr. Not An Idiot, please live up to your name! This Evil Drug War is currently the single biggest reason for the demise of our country and the whole planet. U.S. thuggishness and greed are stomping the whole planet to bits. This Evil Drug War is turning the U.S. in to the next major financial disaster that will make GM, AIG, etc… look like stacks of pennies.

Dear Anonymous, clearly you are an imbalanced person. Please seek treatment.

I am not an Al Sharpton. If you knew how many foot prints and boot prints were on my back, and how greedy leeches have been sucking me dry since I was old enough to carry a penny, you would know that. Peter's, LEAP's, Rev. Ayer's, mine, etc… reward is in heaven. And part of that reward is to never have to face the sick minds of evil haters again. It can't come soon enough!

CaptJackR said...

I still track this case for several reasons. I am not a bible belt thumper. But have a weekend house near Lavonia. What happen to this man was pathetic. First by the police own admission, they had only seen a female get out of the man's car. They followed him to a gas station and decided to ambush him as he left. If they had any brains they could have just had someone walk up and hang out by the door and announce that they wanted to talk to him as he left the store. Read the police statement, they waited over 10 minuets for him to come out of the gas station store, so they could do there "movie style attack" on him and freak him out. I have watched the video and admit it is not real clear. But again WHY did it have to happen at all !!

Read - Think - The cops story does not make sense.

A young lady gets out of a car (happens to be some one he ministers to to try to get her out of that life style) The cops follow follow him and watch abd wait as he goes into a convience store. As they wait they set up the "ambush" (for suspected of no crime on record) then WAM - storm in with guns draw and start shooting. You will notice that none of the officers involved were tested for drugs in their systems - but the dead minister was. I wonder why?

I am not anti-cop, or anti-law, but what happened in Toccoa Ga is something to be afraid of - And I mean really afraid to go there.

PCM said...

Let's not overlook that along with everything else messed up, innocent did-nothing-wrong Ayers got killed by cops shooting at him as he drove away.

I think the police training, mindset, and tactics of these officers were so messed up that many hard-working, honest, and well intentioned police officers simply cannot fathom the reality of what happened.

I understand the gut instinct to defend police. And I can point to seemingly messed up police-involved shootings that were 100 percent justified. I can point to cases where so-called "innocent" people--but with long violent arrest records--were in the wrong place at the wrong time and get killed by police who made, in the heat of the moment, what may be, in hindsight, a questionable decision. I can even point to cases where police made honest mistakes and still to be defended.

This was none of that. No, I don't believe for a second that these officer woke up in that morning and said let's go kill a white preacher. Not at all. These macho guys thought they were in The Show and acted just like they thought they were supposed to act.

Their training, mindset, and tactics--when taken in the totality of the circumstances-- where so negligent, stupid, and so unbelievable *un*reasonable, that the average police officer simply cannot fathom this happening in modern American policing.

ChristMotForbud said...

I use a feature of Google’s news service and my RSS reader to learn of updates to Pastor Ayers’ case. Not to say I learn of them all.

But three have come up in December (and that’s the first time in a LONG time). Two are very short and one is much longer, by Radly Balko.

Criminals Disguised as Cops Raid Illegal Gaming Establishment

How the Militarization of Police Has Turned Law Enforcement Officers Into Terrorists

SWAT Raids, Stun Guns, And Pepper Spray: Why The Government Is Ramping Up The Use Of Force

Anything other than these I should know about?