The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the $2.4 million judgment awarded to a Hall County woman who sued law enforcement officers after her husband was fatally shot.
Abigail Ayers filed the lawsuit in U.S. District Court of Gainesville in 2010 after her husband Jonathan Paul Ayers, a 28-year-old preacher, was shot by a law enforcement officer.
Officers Billy Shane Harrison and Kyle Bryant from the Mountain Judicial Circuit Narcotics Suppression Unit were named in the lawsuit.
In the decision filed May 26, the judges held that the officer was not entitled to immunity and that the “district court did not err in reducing the lost wages portion of the jury verdict.”
An attempt to reach the officers’ attorney Terry Williams for comment was unsuccessful.
Ayers, who was a pastor at Shoal Creek Baptist Church in Lavonia, was shot Sept. 1, 2009, in the parking lot of a Toccoa convenience store.
The pastor was attempting to leave the scene, believing he was in danger when approached by the undercover officers, according to court documents.
Abigail Ayers was initially awarded $2.3 million in 2014, but the amount was later decreased to $1.6 million after a reassessment of the expected lost wages.
She also received more than $832,000 in legal fees.
A Stephens County grand jury did not charge any officers involved in the case.
“We’re pleased that the court of appeals affirmed the jury’s view of the evidence, which was favorable to our client’s deceased husband: that his rights were violated by the police in this instance,” Ayers’ attorney Richard Hendrix said Wednesday.
Hendrix added that the final appeal options have not expired.
“Even though it was affirmed on appeal, Deputy Harrison still has an opportunity to file another request for rehearing,” he said.