I generally don’t write about every single drug war tragedy that I come across, especially ones from outside of the northwest. They happen so routinely – whether it’s a botched drug raid against an innocent suspect, a police officer dying in the line of duty, or innocent people getting caught in the crossfire of competing drug gangs – that it would dominate this blog if I wrote about them all. But one that just happened in northeastern Georgia caught my attention for a couple of reasons and I feel like sharing some thoughts on this.
On September 1, a 28-year-old pastor named Jonathan Ayers was shot and killed by undercover police officers in the town of Toccoa, Georgia. The pastor had been seen driving a car with an alleged drug dealer as a passenger. After Ayers dropped off the suspect (a woman who has not been identified) at a gas station, the officers quickly pulled up in an Escalade and drew their guns (the CNN page has a good video from the convenience store surveillance camera). Ayers sped off as the plain-clothed officers discharged their guns at him. He was wounded from the gunshots and later died at a hospital.
If anyone is convinced that there was some dark side to this pastor, his blog should cast serious doubt on that notion. Reading his recent entries just made my heart sink. Ayers left behind a pregnant wife and was where I was a little less than a year ago, looking forward to ultrasounds and having those “oh shit, I’m going to be a dad” moments. It’s not clear why he had allegedly given this drug suspect a ride, but according to his friends, he considered it his Christian mission to help people, so it wasn’t uncharacteristic for him to be doing favors for strangers.
One post in particular, from only three weeks before the shooting, really struck me as well:
I got pulled over today for no insurance. I was like are you kidding? The deputy told me “no I am not kidding you have no insurance”. We both got on the phone and called the insurance company to figure this whole thing out. They told the deputy that I had a policy but no vehicle’s was on the policy. I was like what kind of policy do I have? So we finaly got it fixed.
I left there and I wandered how many people go through life and think they are ok because they are a good person, have done some good deeds, and they aren’t as bad as some other people. Here’s the thing they don’t know Christ! They have never started a relationship with Jesus. One day they will stand before God and He will say “depart from I never knew you”. They are going to be in for the sadest day of their life. Don’t miss Jesus because you think you are good enough!
I’ve seen several comments to the articles I’ve read about this incident saying things like “well, why did he speed off if he was innocent?” The post above should answer that question completely. Only three weeks before he was killed, he was this rattled from a routine traffic stop. It shouldn’t surprise anyone that the sight of several non-uniformed individuals getting out of an Escalade with guns would have scared him enough that he’d choose to drive away as fast as possible.
It’s not likely that an atheist from the Pacific Northwest is going to change the way the drug war is fought in rural Georgia, but every tragedy in this war weighs on me and hardens my determination to start the dominoes falling where they’re most likely to tip over. This one in particular. While religion has never been a part of my life, I couldn’t help but notice that Ayers’ determination as a Christian mirrors my own determination in this battle. And our underlying motivations are largely the same, to build a better society and to promote peace. I hope that Jonathan’s family can find peace in this tragedy and that Americans of all stripes will take a long look at what this war is doing to us.