A police officer and the suspect he arrested both died after a traffic stop in a small town in Georgia turned violent, authorities said Thursday.
The incident took place in Holly Springs, a small rural community about 35 miles north of Atlanta, on Wednesday night when Officer Joe Burson, 25, stopped a speeding vehicle around 11 p.m. the Georgia Bureau of Investigation said at a press conference Thursday.
At some point during the shutdown, things got violent. Burson opened fire and shot dead the driver of the vehicle – Ansy Dolce, 29. Dolce left and dragged Burson, who ultimately killed him, said GBI spokeswoman Nelly Miles.
It is not known in what order these events occurred or what happened to make the shutdown fatal. Authorities are investigating using footage from the officer’s on-board camera and body camera – which authorities say he was wearing.
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Holly Springs Police Chief Tommy Keheley said other officers responded to the incident and were also carrying body cameras, evidence that will help investigators piece together what happened. Investigators believe it is possible that Burson opened fire on the suspect while he was being dragged by the vehicle, although he is still being investigated, Keheley said.
“If you had the ability to clone police officers, you would have wanted your officer to be Joe Burson,” said Keheley, calling him a “model officer” who has always volunteered to show children in the community his police car. “He has been an asset to this department. He will be sorely missed.”
Burson had been with the department for less than two years, Keheley said. It was his first job in law enforcement and the ministry helped him complete his training and certification.
A memorial has been erected outside the police department with community members leaving flowers.
“It was just a simple stop and in the end it could have been avoided,” Keheley said. “It’s the worst day in a job for a police chief.”