Probe of Georgia pastor's shooting expected to take another month

Abigail Nelson joins dozens of supporters to remember her son, Jonathan Ayers, a young Baptist pastor fatally shot by police.

LAVONIA, Ga. (ABP) -- An investigation into the Sept. 1 police shooting of a Southern Baptist pastor in northeast Georgia is expected to last another month.

Brian Rickman, district attorney of Mountain Judicial Circuit, said the Georgia Bureau of Investigation is continuing its investigation of the death of Jonathan Ayers. The pastor of Shoal Creek Baptist Church was fatally wounded by plain-clothes police officers while fleeing a gas station in Toccoa, Ga.

LAVONIA, Ga. (ABP) -- An investigation into the Sept. 1 police shooting of a Southern Baptist pastor in northeast Georgia is expected to last another month.

Brian Rickman, district attorney of Mountain Judicial Circuit, said the Georgia Bureau of Investigation is continuing its investigation of the death of Jonathan Ayers. The pastor of Shoal Creek Baptist Church was fatally wounded by plain-clothes police officers while fleeing a gas station in Toccoa, Ga.

Police wanted to question the pastor about a woman under a drug investigation who had been seen riding in his car shortly before the shooting. They opened fire as Ayers tried to leave the scene, allegedly striking one of the officers with his car and driving toward another in a threatening manner. 

Abigail Nelson joins dozens of supporters to remember her son, Jonathan Ayers, a young Baptist pastor fatally shot by police.

Friends and family members say Ayers was ministering to the woman, later arrested on two charges of selling cocaine, and that he likely tried to get away because he thought the two men shouting and rushing toward his car were trying to rob him.

Dozens of supporters gathered Oct. 3 to remember the slain pastor and call for justice in his death. After meeting at a church parking lot, a crowd of about 50 people marched silently around the block surrounding the Stephens County Courthouse before gathering to speak.

"I thank everyone that has shown up today," Ayers' mother, Abigail Nelson, told the Anderson Independent Mail after the vigil. "It is more than I expected, really."

The newspaper said those in attendance remembered Ayers as a good man, loving husband and man of God. Some called for an independent grand jury investigation into his death.

Rickman said his office is receiving regular updates from the GBI on the progress of their investigation, but it is uncertain when it will be completed. Information and evidence must be followed up on as it becomes available, the DA said, but it "appears reasonable to believe" the process could be concluded in another four weeks.

Rickman said the GBI would turn results of the investigation over to his office and the DA's office or an outside prosecutor will decide whether to present the matter to a Stephens County grand jury.

Supporters don't want to risk Ayers' death being swept under the rug. The officers involved in the shooting were agents with the Narcotics Investigation and Suppression Team, a special drug task force that covers three northeast Georgia counties and works under the office of the district attorney for the Mountain Judicial Circuit, which covers those three counties.

Ayers' mother, who has labeled her son's death a murder, said at the Oct. 3 rally she was upset because no one in law enforcement has contacted her to apologize or offer any explanation about his death.

Rickman said because the matter could wind up before a grand jury, his office is unable to comment on any of the evidence gathered so far.

"While it is fully understandable that answers are wanted immediately, we cannot sacrifice the quality and legal soundness of the process that must be followed," he said in a press release. "Georgia law and proper legal procedure must be followed to ensure the integrity of the legal process."

A website called "Justice for Jonathan" said plans for a memorial service are in the works and there are future plans for a candlelight vigil at Shoal Creek Baptist Church.

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