Family suing deputy in son’s 2012 death
by Joshua Sharpe
August 21, 2013 12:06 AM | 6359 views | 12 12 comments | 43 43 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Andrew Messina
The family of 16-year-old Andrew Messina, who was killed in a May 2012 standoff with the Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office, has filed suit in a federal court seeking damages from the deputy who fired the fatal shot.

Lisa and Nick Messina filed suit in U.S. District Court on Aug. 9 against Deputy Jason Yarbrough, the officer who shot their son May 1, 2012, at Messina’s home in the Eagle Watch subdivision in Woodstock, during a standoff with police after the troubled teen allegedly held his mother at gunpoint and was threatening to kill himself.

Yarbrough was later cleared of any wrongdoing in the shooting by former District Attorney Garry Moss following an investigation by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, but Lisa Messina said Tuesday she and her husband don’t feel justice has been served in the death of their only child.

“He was a good kid,” she said. “He did not deserve that.”

The standoff at the Messina home began when Lisa Messina called 911 and reported that her son had his father’s .357 Magnum revolver and was threatening to kill himself.

Initial reports from authorities also indicated the teen held his mother at gunpoint, but the lawsuit filed by the Messinas disputes that.

“At no time did Andrew threaten to shoot Mrs. Messina with the gun, nor did he in any way restrain her,” the lawsuit claims, adding that she exited the house after the 911 operator suggested she do so.

In a 700-page report on the incident prepared by the GBI released July 2012, authorities said Yarbrough shot Andrew in the abdomen after the teen broke a glass window pane out of the front door of the home on Laurel Crest Drive and pointed his gun toward deputies. According to the report, Yarbrough told investigators that he heard “two loud pops” after the glass broke, and he believed Andrew was shooting.

But David A. Cox of Pekor and Associates, the law firm representing the Messinas in the suit, said Tuesday Yarbrough was mistaken, adding that the teen had his back turned to police when he was shot.

“He was shot through his lower back, and the round exited his lower abdomen on the other side,” he said.

Cox said Yarbrough shouldn’t have fired at Andrew, because he had no hostages inside the home and posed no threat to deputies.

“We don’t believe any of the officers were ever in any kind of jeopardy or danger,” Cox said. “Andrew hadn’t acted aggressively toward any of the officers.”

Police said at the time both alcohol and medications the teen was taking may have been contributing factors to the incident. 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.

Within the lawsuit, the Messinas are asking the court to let a jury decide exactly how much they should be owed in retribution for their son’s death.

“We didn’t put a dollar figure on it,” Cox said. “There’s no amount you can put on a child’s life.”

Lisa Messina said in addition to damages, she and her husband want changes in protocol to “prevent any parent from ever having to go through” such a situation again.

“He’s gone; Nothing will bring him back,” Lisa said. “But we have good intentions … to make changes. There are things that can be improved to prevent this.”

Although Yarbrough is the only defendant in the lawsuit, Cox said more suits could come, if suing others proves to be legally prudent.

“You’d see a lot bigger suit now if we could do it,” he said. “It could be that Deputy Yarbrough ends up being the only defendant. There could be others.”

Cherokee County Attorney Angie Davis said Tuesday she had not yet had time to review the lawsuit, but since Yarbrough was on duty when the shooting took place, she suspected the county would represent him.

Sheriff Roger Garrison said at the time of the investigation the negotiators “worked feverishly, to the very, very best of their abilities” to talk Andrew into surrendering.

Comments-icon Post a Comment
August 24, 2013
To those of you who have not read the GBI report....

Your comments are ignorant. I mean they are laughable because you comment on stuff you know nothing about. Ignoramous

This case will have a jury trial of 12 peers to look at the evidence. They will not take into consideration comments made by the family or the sheriff. They will look at facts only.

At that point you will understand how ignorant your comments are. Please pay attention to the trial and know that officers lie to cover their ass just like regular civilians lie to cya. In this case a deputy and a sheriff lied to cover up an accidental shooting of a boy..
Diana Reynolds
August 23, 2013
What would any police officer think when a known gunman breaks a window open and points his weapon thru that broken glass at police? Any trained officer is at that point in a fight for his life and has every right to protect him / herself. Why would a person do that if they had no intention of shooting thru that window.

August 27, 2013
He was NOT a known gunman. He was a child. Are you really serious? How did he point his gun at the police with his back facing them. Why didn't the police next to the door shoot him? Why did a sniper who was across the street and new on the scene take the killing shot and not another sniper?

To those with children, BEWARE. If the Sheriff's Office gets away with this then no one is safe.

A child is gone who could have made a difference in the world. The very system he protested, the inequality, the ruthlessness and a society gone so wrong took him down. A family and community devastated all because a policeman THOUGHT he heard a gunshot.
Deputies Lie
September 05, 2013

In reading the GBI report that boy did not put his gun through the glass. The hole was too small making it impossible. Someone lied to cover up an accidental shooting from the sniper or trigger happy sniper. Just because the sheriff said something on tv the next day does not make it fact.
August 23, 2013
Yes, here we go again. Bigoted, self-righteous people believing everything they read. This young man was depressed, never threatened anyone but himself. The parents are loving, caring and compassionate people who sought help and their child was shot in the back. I’m sure the sniper did not plan on taking a life that day and must live with this forever. The procedures need to be evaluated and improved upon.
August 23, 2013
ALTERNATIVE HEADLINE: "Deputy sued because he failed to act while troubled teen went on shooting rampage" I hope that any citizen reading this is outraged. The issue is not whether their son deserved to die, it is whether their son posed a lethal threat to others. I believe that he clearly did whether he shot at officers or not. Now mom, dad and attorney want to pilfer the Cherokee County piggy-bank to ease their own suffering. PLEASE!!

I PAY TAXES TO ENABLE LAW ENFORCEMENT TO DO EXACTLY WHAT THEY DID!! I DO NOT pay taxes to line mom and dads pockets. If you had any idea that law enforcement was going to come to your house and do their job, you should not have called them mom!
Jean Thax
August 24, 2013
@ C'MON....where did you ever read that this kid went on a shooting rampage....some people are idiots .. they insert what they want to believe into the truth, and then make idiotic comments. You just don't get it do you....this was a situation where a young teen was threatening to kill himself not others, and the cop supervisor decided to bring in a 'sharp shooter' to make sure the teen got his wish. The fact that he had mental issues at the time was of no concern to the cops. The whole damn department should be made to pay for this. They need to learn how to deal with mental health issues instead of going in with guns drawn and killing people under mental stress! Cops were hired to serve and protect.....not maim and murder!!

August 21, 2013
Here again is another parent blaming someone else for their childs behavior. The officer was doing his job trying to protect the public from a troubled teen. People need to take responsibility for raising their own children. And own up to it if their not perfect!
Level the field
August 22, 2013
I agree that people should take responsibility. In this case the officer ought to admit he lost his head and shot someone in the back. Just how threatened could he have been by someone not facing him? It's high time we start holding these alleged public servants accountable to the same standard that you or I would be held to.

Jean Thax
August 31, 2013 obviously have no children!!! Or if you do, they must be infants or adolescents. Boy are you in for a rude awakening!!!

People like you who make those kind of comments just don't have a clue. This child was NOT a threat to the public. He was in his own home, did you not bother to read the article regarding his murder by law enforcement?

We are taught to trust the police....we don't expect them to come in with guns drawn to deal with a distraught child in his own home. Unfortunately times has changed, and instead of protection, we are now in danger from the people we hired to protect are more in danger of being killed by the police than you are of a gang member or a terrorist (even if you are not a criminal, a gang member or a terrorist). People need to educate themselves ... this is happening all over the USA, and if something is not done, we are going to be a controlled people, a police state...again EDUCATE Yourself!!!
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