WETUMPKA, Ala. (AP) — The parents of a military veteran shot and killed by a sheriff’s deputy during what his family described as a mental health crisis because of his PTSD have filed a civil lawsuit against the Elmore County sheriff.
Jonathan Pears, 32, was shot and killed in the front yard of his parents’ home in Wetumpka on July 28. Deputies came to the home after his mother called 911 when she became concerned over her son’s behavior.
The lawsuit accuses the sheriff’s department of using excessive force in shooting Pears, who was holding a large knife but was 90 feet away and not threating anyone, according to his parents. A statement issued this week said family members “believe this is a case of needless, premature, and unnecessary police actions resulting in their son Jonathan’s wrongful death.”
“My son was my hero. He was a senior airman and served as a civilian contractor. Jonathan spent almost four years in Afghanistan, surviving a suicide bomber, mortar fire, and firefights,” his father, retired Air Force Col. Andrew Pears, said in the statement. The father said officers had less lethal means to address the situation.
Sheriff Bill Franklin said Thursday that he could not comment on the case because of the ongoing litigation. In July, Franklin told news outlets a deputy shot Pears because he refused commands to drop the 18-inch knife while walking toward officers and his father.
The lawsuit states Pears had returned from Afghanistan in 2019 and suffered from “PTSD and was tormented by his memories of harrowing experiences in Afghanistan.” Pears had completed an inpatient program at the VA months before the shooting but had stopped taking his medication.
On the day of the shooting, his parents said Pears was acting irrationally and they called 911 because they were “fearful for their safety and for Jonathan’s safety.” His mother put a gun in a locked bedroom so her son could not get it. The lawsuit said that when hearing that someone was coming to the house, Johnathon Pears said. “I’m not going back! I’m not going back!” His mother thought her son “was having a flashback to the Taliban.”
According to the lawsuit, Andrew Pears went out to greet responding officers but was tackled by deputies. Jonathon Pears was shot when he went outside and within seconds of being told to drop the knife.
A deputy told the parents they had to shoot Pears because he was coming at his father with a knife.
“However, the truth was absolutely the opposite,” the lawsuit stated.