Jarrard and Davis, which represents Cherokee County and its employees, filed Jan. 17 in U.S. District Court to have the Messinas’ suit seeking damages from Deputy Jason Yarbrough thrown out, citing the deputy had no ill intent and only shot the teen because he felt force was “necessary.”
Messina’s parents, Lisa and Nick Messina, filed suit Aug. 9, 2013, against Yarbrough, alleging he should have never shot their only child during the standoff at the family’s home in the Eagle Watch subdivision, because he was of no danger to anyone but himself.
In the response to the Messinas’ suit, Yarbrough’s attorneys argued that his “use of deadly force was objectively reasonable under the circumstances,” and that the deputy was acting in accordance with the law as well as protocol at the sheriff’s office.
The standoff began May 1, 2012, when Lisa Messina called 911 and reported her son had his father’s handgun and was threatening to kill himself, records show.
In a copy of a 911 call, Lisa Messina can be heard telling the operator that her son seemed to be loading the gun and was “angry,” as the 16-year-old screamed in the background. The mother told the operator she thought her son was a danger to himself.
“At first, he pointed (the gun) at me, then he pointed it at his neck,” she told the operator, after exiting the house on Laurel Crest Drive at the suggestion of the operator. The mother, who seemed mostly calm in multiple 911 calls, added her son had some issues, but had never had such an episode before.
Shortly after Messina’s mother alerted authorities, deputies with the sheriff’s office responded to the home and began negotiations to defuse the situation.
Yarbrough shot the teen in the abdomen after he broke a glass window pane out of the front door of the home and pointed his gun toward deputies, according to a 700-page report of the incident prepared by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation. The report explains Yarbrough told investigators he heard “two loud pops” after the glass broke, and he believed Andrew was shooting.
Police said at the time of the incident both alcohol and medications the teen was taking may have been contributing factors. According to the GBI’s report, Andrew’s toxicology tests revealed his blood to be positive for sertraline, an antidepressant, and he had a blood-alcohol content of .132.
In the Messinas’ suit, the family argues the teen, an Etowah High School student, never “deliberately” threatened officers with the gun, and he didn’t “take any other aggressive action toward any officer.”
Yarbrough was later cleared of any wrongdoing in the shooting by former District Attorney Garry Moss following the GBI’s investigation. He is still employed by the sheriff’s office, said Lt. Jay Baker, spokesman for the agency.
The family of the teen has expressed their heartbreak over the incident, and they believe it should have never happened.
“He was a good kid,” Lisa Messina told the Tribune in August. “He did not deserve that.”