Pastor's blessing caused traumatic brain injury


A woman in Norcross says a time for prayer and healing in church left her hurt when her pastor allegedly knocked her into a concussion while blessing her with his hands.

Pastor William Shears is the longtime, energetic leader of the Hopewell Missionary Baptist in Norcross. Yvonne Byrd had been a member there for more than 15 years and a member of the church choir.

She says in April 2017, Shears pushed her on the forehead during blessing time, knocking her to the floor. Byrd says she hit the back of her head on steps in the sanctuary and lost consciousness.

"He placed his hands on her forehead and he just shoved her," said Chuck Clay, Byrd's attorney. "In this circumstance, she had nobody behind her and she was right next to the steps. So, when the pastor shoved Mrs. Byrd by the forehead, she fell backward and she immediately hit the back of her head and lost conscious right there in the service."

Clay says his client suffered a mild traumatic brain injury and was diagnosed with post-concussive syndrome. He says it took some time for congregation members to notice Byrd was hurt initially.

"The church was full, but when they realized Mrs. Byrd wasn't moving on the ground, they started surrounding her and 911 was called," Clay said.

"This case is about negligence," Clay said. "This case is about someone who was not exercising due care for the congregation, Mrs. Byrd specifically."

Byrd's attorneys say she spent several weeks at Shepard Center for rehab. She's now suing the church for medical expenses she's incurred after the incident, and for the dizziness, headaches and memory loss her attorneys say she still suffers from.

They say she is most disappointed by the alleged lack of support from the church. Clay says Byrd feels abandoned and hasn't heard from her now-former pastor.

"She's not received an apology from the pastor of the church," Clay said. "She's not had medical bills paid for by the church. She doesn't feel comfortable...This is probably, outside of family, the biggest trust relationship that you can be in, and for it to happen there and for the reaction after the fact to be sort of one of abandonment has been really hard for her."

CBS46 reached out to Pastor Sheals and left a message for the church, as well as attorneys representing the pastor. No one returned the station's phone calls as of Friday night.

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