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Attorney: It was an assassination

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Albany-- An assassination - that's what the attorney for the Lee County teenager, shot and killed by a sheriff's deputy last month, calls his death.

Seventeen-year-old Wesley Beaver's family is threatening to file a $10 million wrongful death lawsuit against Lee County, the Sheriff's Department, and Captain Donnie Spillers.

Dawson attorney T. Gamble says this is the most egregious case of police misconduct he's ever seen.

A Christmas photo for 1999 shows the tight-knit Beaver family. It was on another holiday, Valentine's Day six year later, that they're life was rocked by the unexpected death of son, Wesley.

"They're a very strong Christian people. That has been the main way that they've gotten through so far is to trust in the Lord," Gamble said.

Gamble says the family has many unanswered questions about the February night, when Wesley was pulled over by Lee County Sheriff's Deputy Capt. Donnie Spillers, shot in the face, and later died. "I think it's a clear class of police misconduct. In our opinion, he cold-bloodedly assassinated him."

Spillers was fired after a GBI investigation showed he pulled the trigger, then planted a knife in Beaver's car. Gamble says Spillers actions and the Sheriff's Department handling of the incident were reprehensible. "You can't have a more egregious situation than an unarmed 17-year-old boy being shot in the head by a patrolman who's been in his position for a number of years, and then after it, takes the steps to cover up what he's done is reprehensible. To top it off, the Sheriff's department allows him, after he's suspended, to cruise around in the patrol cars with other people on duty, because he's worried about whether Spillers is depressed or not!"

Gamble says Spillers shouldn't have even been on the job. "We feel like he's been coddled and covered up for on a number of occasions, and in fact, should have been discharged from his duties well before this incident ever occurred."

Gamble says Spillers had documented misconduct including a situation that happened nine months ago, that lead to a confidential settlement, but Gamble would not elaborate. "There was a confidential settlement which has prohibited me from talking about it. But if we do file a lawsuit, I might be, at that point, more able to discuss it."

The Beavers' are threatening a $10 million wrongful death lawsuit against Spillers, the Sheriff's Office, and Lee County. "I wouldn't surprise me that if you put it in front of a jury, it could bring more than $10 million, because of the facts in this case about Capt. Spillers' conduct, his attempt to cover up, and even the callousness of the Sheriff's Department."

Gamble is waiting on the County Attorney to contact him about possibly settling the case out of court. But Gamble says the Beaver family realizes no monetary settlement or even criminal punishment for Spillers could ever bring back Wesley. "They've told me that it's a day-by-day process, that you almost have to force yourself just to do the routine. Hopefully as time goes on, it will get better, but it will never be the same."

Gamble is also asking District Attorney Cecelia Cooper to upgrade the charge of involuntary manslaughter against Spillers to at least voluntary manslaughter. A grand jury is expected to consider Spillers' criminal charges the end of April.

Tonight at 11, Gamble shares some of the Beaver family's memories of Wesley.

posted by dave.miller@walb.com