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Grand jury hearing case of slain minister in Toccoa
Widow says shes unhappy with way case has been handled
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A grand jury met Tuesday to begin considering whether criminal charges should be brought against undercover drug officers involved in the Sept. 1 shooting death of a Baptist minister outside a Toccoa convenience store.

Jonathan Paul Ayers of Lavonia was killed by drug agents after dropping off a woman and driving to a service station. Police said the woman had purchased drugs in the past, and three drug agents blocked Ayers’ car at the convenience store. They say Ayers backed into one agent and another fired at Ayers after he maneuvered his car in a threatening manner.

After reviewing the Georgia Bureau of Investigation’s report on the incident, District Attorney Brian Rickman decided to take the case to a Stephens County grand jury. The grand jury began hearing the case Tuesday.

Jonathan Ayers’ wife, Abby Ayers, said she was “deeply disappointed” in the way Rickman had chosen to pursue the case, according to a statement released Thursday.

Ayers’ Gainesville-based attorney, Roland Stroberg, said if there is an indictment of criminal charges against anyone responsible for Jonathan Ayers’ death, it will take two grand juries to get it.

The first grand jury, which is meeting this week, will consider the case and give an advisory opinion on whether a second grand jury should receive evidence and decide whether a criminal indictment is necessary, according to Abby Ayers’ statement.

“I feel that this tilts the system unfairly in favor of those whose conduct led to this tragic and shocking loss of my husband and his family, including his unborn child that I am bearing,” the statement read.

Rickman did not return a call seeking comment from The Times.

Stroberg said sending the case before two grand juries is not common.

“It’s not the way it’s usually done. ... This is, if not unprecedented, extremely unusual,” Stroberg said.

Under the system Stroberg said Rickman is pursuing for the case, the case would not be pursued further if the first grand jury decides it should not be, Stroberg said. If the grand jury does say the case should go further, another grand jury would receive evidence in January and decide whether anyone should be indicted, Stroberg said.

“As you readily can see then, it only is going to take one grand jury to see that this is not pursued further, but on the other hand, it’s going to take two grand juries to return a bill of indictment on it,” Stroberg said. “The normal way is you present a case to the grand jury and the grand jury either does or does not return a bill of indictment so that’s what’s been a very deep concern to Abby Ayers and her family.”

The Associated Press contributed to this story.