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Wrongful death suit filed after Afghan war vet with PTSD killed by cop

The family of an Afghanistan war veteran has filed a wrongful death lawsuit. (Carol Robinson/

The family of an Afghanistan war veteran has filed a wrongful death lawsuit after they say he was wrongfully shot to death in July by an Elmore County sheriff’s deputy during a mental health episode caused by PTSD.

Jonathan Pears, 32, was killed in the front yard of his parents’ house in Wetumpka on July 28. Elmore County Sheriff Bill Franklin has said Pears was shot when he approached deputies and his father with a machete and refused to drop it.

Franklin told in August that the incident is under investigation and the findings would be presented to a grand jury.

Retired Air Force Col. Andy Pears, talks about the July 28 shooting death of his son. (Mike Cason/

The federal lawsuit was filed Oct. 7 in the Middle District of Alabama by Pears’ father, retired U.S. Air Force Colonel Andrew Pears. It names as defendants Sheriff Franklin, and three unnamed deputies.

The family, along with attorney Julian McPhillips, held a press conference in August to discuss the fatal shooting.

According to the lawsuit, Jonathan Pears in February returned home to Elmore County following his military service in Afghanistan and a short time in Montana.

After returning home to live with his parents, he worked as an HVAC technician but suffered from PTSD and was “tormented by his memories of harrowing experiences in Afghanistan.”

The family of an Afghanistan war veteran has filed a wrongful death lawsuit. (Carol Robinson /

On March 29, he began an in-patient program at the VA, completing the program in late May. He was released to return home and began a new job.

His mother, Mary Pears, began noticing that her son was acting upset or depressed, similar to what he had shown prior to his treatment. She learned that he how her son, Jonathan, began acting and/or appearing upset and depressed, similar to his condition prior to his in-patient treatment at the VA and learned he had stopped taking his medication.

On July 28, while at home, Jonathan Pears appeared to suffer a psychotic break and began acting irrational, the suit states. His parents became fearful for their safety, and that of their son, and called 911.

The family of an Afghanistan war veteran has filed a wrongful death lawsuit. (Contributed) (Carol Robinson /

While speaking with the 911 dispatcher, Mary Pears told the dispatcher that she had thrown a gun into her bedroom and locked the bedroom door, so that her son could not have access to the weapon. She also told the dispatcher that her son was still acting irrationally despite that he no longer had a gun.

The 911 dispatcher asked Mary Pears, “Where is he now?” She reported that he was standing next to her in the entryway inside the front door.

The dispatcher told Mary Pears that the deputies were approaching the residence through the woods. “However, no mention was made to Mary about the deputies being armed, combative or dangerous,’’ the suit states. “Mary did not understand and exclaimed loudly, ‘Through the Woods? Why are they coming through the woods? Just have them come to the front door!’

The family of an Afghanistan war veteran has filed a wrongful death lawsuit. (Contributed) (Carol Robinson /

Jonathan Pears overheard the conversation and responded, “They’re coming for me? I’m not gonna go back (perhaps referring to the VA psychiatric hospital). Fine…let them come.”

Jonathan Pears went to his bedroom upstairs and returned with what appeared to be a large knife. At this point, his father went outside to meet, greet and assist the first responders.

“As Mary remained on the telephone with the 911 dispatcher, Jonathan kept telling his mother, ‘I’m not going back! I’m not going back!’ In Mary’s opinion, her son was having a flashback to the Taliban,’’ according to the suit.

Deputies instructed the father to put up his hands. The suit contends a deputy tackled the father, threw him down the sloped front yard and began jabbing Andy Pears in his side, causing severe contusions, and then handcuffed him, leaving him on the ground near the street at the bottom of the front yard at the end of the driveway.

The family of an Afghanistan war veteran has filed a wrongful death lawsuit. (Contributed) (Carol Robinson /

At that point, Jonathan Pears exited the front door of the home to see what was going on. “As soon as Jonathan exited the front door, Mary heard one or more officers yelling at Jonathan, ‘Drop the (expletive) knife and get down.’”

Within seconds, at least one deputy fired at least three gunshots, hitting Jonathan Pears.

Mary Pears ran outside screaming, “Did you shoot him? Did you shoot my son? Oh my God!” the suit states. She saw her son in a fetal position on the ground. One deputy was kneeling beside him saying, “stay with me buddy.”

“Then one of the sheriff deputies responded, ‘We had to shoot him, he came after your husband (Andy Pears) with a knife.’ However, the truth was absolutely the opposite,’’ according to the suit.

The suit alleges that the sheriff has refused to identify the deputies who were involved with the shooting, and said deputies treated Andy and Mary Pears with “enormous disrespect, indignity, and mean-spiritedness in many respects.”

“Furthermore, contrary to the defendants’ alleged flippant defense that Jonathan was engaging in ‘suicide by cop,’ the truth is that Jonathan was actually excited about life and looking forward to having a 4-door green pick-up truck delivered to him the very next week,’’ the suit states.

Pears had been awarded the Navy Achievement Medal and the Naval Presidential Unit Citation for his heroism in Kandahar while assigned to Task Force Leatherneck, according to a Wednesday press release announcing a dedication for the Senior Airman Jonathan A. Pears Memorial Park.

The event, which will be held at noon, Nov. 6, at 155 Timber Trail in Wetumpka, is organized by his father, who served in numerous overseas deployments, and has been awarded two Legion of Merits awards, the Bronze Star, two Defense Meritorious Service awards, four Meritorious Service awards, an Outstanding Unit with Valor award, and nine campaign awards.


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