Official clears deputy in May teen shooting
by Megan Thornton
mthornton@cherokeetribune.com
June 27, 2012 12:12 AM | 2216 views | 3 3 comments | 6 6 recommendations | email to a friend | print
CANTON — Following a Georgia Bureau of Investigation report, the Cherokee County district attorney has cleared the deputy involved in the May 1 shooting of a Towne Lake teen.

According to the GBI report summary released Monday, Deputy Jason Yarbrough has been cleared of any wrongdoing in the shooting of Andrew Messina, the 16-year-old who was killed in a standoff with Cherokee Sheriff’s Office deputies last month.

After release of a 700-page report prepared by the Georgia Bureau of Investigations, District Attorney Garry Moss ruled that he found no reason to arrest or prosecute Yarbrough, the summary states.

Included with the report were three videos Messina recorded on his iPhone to document the early evening standoff in his home in the Eagle Watch subdivision, which started after his mother called 911, saying the teenager had threatened her after a fight the two had over his school grades and friends.

The videos total about 30 minutes and show Messina opening the chamber to display a loaded .357 Magnum revolver, which he points toward his head in the final video after saying goodbye to several of his friends.

In the series of videos, the teenager is seen sobbing while pacing amidst empty alcohol bottles strewn throughout the home. At one point, Messina is also seen threatening deputies through his front door, telling them he intended to set his home on fire.

Toxicology reports released as a part of the report reveal that Messina’s blood tested positive for sertraline, an anti-depressant, and had a blood-alcohol content of .132. The legal limit to drive in Georgia is .08 blood-alcohol content for adults.

“In my opinion, it’s clearly a synergistic reaction between those medicines and that alcohol that contribute to the tragic circumstances of that day,” Sheriff Roger Garrison said in an interview Monday.

Garrison said Yarbrough is attending routine training this week and will return to active duty next week. He has been on paid administrative leave since the shooting.

The sheriff said the Messina parents received the report near the end of last week and that the findings were not made public until they had time to review them.

In his summary of events that led to the fateful shooting, Maj. Ron Hunton wrote and detailed how three negotiators went close to the Messina’s front door in an attempt to engage Andrew, who would not speak with them over the phone.

“Messina was drinking and Sgt. (Charles) Westbrook felt that (Messina) was trying to build up his courage to either hurt himself or engage law enforcement—forcing law enforcement to hurt (Messina),” Hunton wrote.

Westbrook also reported to investigators that Messina pointed a gun at Westbrook “a number of times,” and that Westbrook told him at least twice not to do so, Hunton wrote in the report.

Yarbrough told investigators that he felt compelled to shoot because he believed Andrew was shooting through the glass door at negotiators and other deputies near the front door.

Yarbrough said he saw Andrew’s hand holding the revolver, extended out towards negotiators and then reported hearing “two loud pops” he believed were gun shots.

However, Messina’s gun never went off, Hunton said in the report. Andrew hit the front door with his gun but failed to break the glass, then hit it again and broke through before pointing his gun through the broken windowpane at the nearby investigators, Hunton said in the report.

Yarbrough then shot Messina in the abdomen. Messina was taken to WellStar Kennestone Hospital, where he was later pronounced dead.

“It is my opinion that the shooting death of Andrew Messina was a justified use of force by law enforcement,” Hunton said in the report.

According to the GBI report, the case is closed.

Messina’s parents did not return calls for comment.
Comments
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IAMSAM2071
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June 27, 2012
I wonder if all the so called "experts" are going to man up and admit they were wrong. Not likely.
MIKE JOHNSON
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June 30, 2012
Seriously? A comity wants’ to change the way S.W.A.T. Teams handle juveniles with guns? Wake up people, “kids” kill all the time! Some of them bring BB Guns to gun fights and lose their lives because police officers don’t have time to inspect the gun before they fire their weapon. Live by the gun, die by the gun! Move to Disney World if you think that is what the real world is all about!Keep up the good work Cherokee County Sheriff's Office!
IAMSAM2071
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July 14, 2012
Justice For Andrew Messina is more like Justice For Andrew Messina commitee to elect David Waters.

They would have some creditably if they actually did some research and not come across as political hacks with an agenda. They claim they are not out to "admonish law enforcement " yet one only has to look at the hate and ignorance displayed on their facebook page. A page with a Vote for Waters banner splashed across it. But remember, do not question their motives.
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