Fatal encounter at the ATM
This story is about the killing of Jonathan Ayers, the pastor of Shoal Creek Baptist Church in Lavonia, Georgia. On September 1, 2009, Pastor Ayers, 28, was driving and recognized a woman walking that he had known for a number of years, Johanna Kayla Jones Barrett. Ms. Barrett had no permanent home and was living with her boyfriend at the Relax Inn, an extended-stay motel.
Pastor Ayers offered her a ride and gave her the $23 that was in his pocket to help her out with rent. Ayers had helped the woman in the past as part of his ministry, his wife later confirmed.
Ayers and Barrett then pulled into gas station in Toccoa, where the pastor proceeded in withdrawing another $20 from an ATM.
With cash in hand, Ayers then got back into his car. Immediately, a black SUV then veered into the gas station and 3 strange men hopped out and aimed guns at Ayers’ vehicle. Fearing for his life, Ayers attempted to evade the trio of belligerent gunmen.
Unfortunately, the hostile forces weren’t carjackers or armed robbers as they appeared. They were undercover police officers dressed in plainclothes who had been trailing Ms. Bennett, who had been suspected of getting high without government permission.
When Pastor Ayers put his car in reverse and mashed his gas pedal, his vehicle grazed (or nearly grazed) Agent Chance Oxner, of the Mountain Judicial Circuit Narcotics Criminal Investigation & Suppression (NCIS) Team.
Agent Billy Shane Harrison opened fire, striking Ayers in the liver. Ayers’ vehicle continued a short distance until it crashed into a utility pole on the side of the road.
Gas station surveillance cameras captured the confrontation on video. View it here:
The incident, from the time the black SUV screeched to a halt, to the time Ayers was shot, lasted approximately ten seconds. He had only picked up Ms. Barrett approximately ten minutes before the shooting.