Ohio social worker accused of sex offense fired gun at 13-year-old client’s home, lawsuit claims

COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — The mother of an Ohio social worker’s client has sued both the employee and her employer, claiming warnings of sexual misconduct fell on deaf ears and later resulted in violence.

In a civil complaint filed Monday in Franklin County Common Pleas Court, the mother accused the National Youth Advocate Program of failing to remove her 13-year-old son from 24-year-old Payton Shires’ care when she alerted the nonprofit that Shires was having an inappropriate sexual relationship with the teen client. A Columbus SWAT team arrested Shires on Oct. 6 on a felony charge of sexual conduct with a minor.

Payton Shires. (Courtesy Photo/Columbus Division of Police)

Payton Shires. (Courtesy Photo/Columbus Division of Police)

The civil lawsuit document also detailed that from August to September 2023, Shires engaged in sexual acts with the teen victim in multiple places in Franklin and other Ohio counties “within the course and scope of her employment with NYAP.” The mother informed the nonprofit of what was happening on Sept. 22, two weeks before police would take Shires into custody.

The civil complaint also accuses Shires of something previously unseen in criminal court documents. Police previously arrested Shires a second time after they said she showed up at the victim’s home with a gun. She called the victim’s mother on the phone, telling her that she “ruined her life,” and threatened to kill the mother and then herself, according to an affidavit. In the lawsuit, the mother’s attorney said that Shires fired a single shot while she was there, which was never mentioned in initial police reports.

The civil complaint claimed both the mother and teen client — both listed as plaintiffs — suffered “physical injury, bodily injury, disability, embarrassment, humiliation, loss of enjoyment of life” as well as healthcare expenses, wage loss and other damages as a result of Shires’ actions and NYAP’s lack of. The lawsuit asked for a judgment with payments in excess of $25,000, both compensatory and punitive, from both Shires and NYAP.

After the incident at the victim’s home, Shires’ criminal case moved from Franklin County Municipal Court to Franklin County Common Pleas Court. As of Wednesday, she faced four counts of unlawful sexual conduct with a minor, two counts of witness intimidation and one county each for discharging a firearm and inducing panic. Because she was prohibited from having any contact with the alleged victim, her bond was revoked.

Columbus police first got involved when the teen’s mother called them to report text messages she found between him and Shires. The social worker had asked the 13-year-old if he deleted videos, and if his mother had seen them or messages between them, a detective wrote in a criminal complaint document.

The mother gave her son’s phone to the Columbus Division of Police as evidence. After getting a warrant, investigators found a video of Shires engaging in sexual acts with the teen on the device. The criminal complaint said CPD then joined the mother for a phone call with Shires, where she admitted to participating in multiple sexual acts with the 13-year-old.

Franklin County Common Pleas Court records show Shires has a trial scheduled for 9 a.m. on Dec. 7. State records confirmed that Shires’ social work license remained active as of Nov. 20. There were no details available regarding a possible suspension or forfeiture.

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