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Who was Joe Burson? Georgia cop, 25, killed after motorist drags him

Officer dragged while attempting to pull over a motorist for speeding, remembered as 'genuinely good individual'
UPDATED JUN 19, 2021
Holly Springs police Officer Joe Burson, 25,  was killed while trying to stop a motorist from speeding (Holly Springs Police Department)
Holly Springs police Officer Joe Burson, 25, was killed while trying to stop a motorist from speeding (Holly Springs Police Department)

Holly Springs Police Officer Joe Burson lost his life in a tragic act of violence on June 17. The Georgia police officer was attempting to stop a motorist for speeding when the driver dragged Burson in an attempt to escape. Burson then shot at the driver, leading to a crash. Both men were confirmed to have died on Thursday, June 17, despite efforts to save them.

Over 150 officers have been killed in the line of duty in 2021, according to reports. In January 2021, Officer Brandon Stalker in Ohio was killed during a standoff with an armed suspect. Traffic-related accidents, in particular, have proven to be quite deadly. In April, NYPD veteran Anastasios Tsakos was killed by a drunk driver. 


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Georgia has proven to be a particularly deadly state for cops. Between numerous shootings of civilians and the George Floyd protests, the relationship between the public and the police is already quite tense. Officer Burson's tragic death is another indication of just how bad things are in the state. "It was just a simple stop and the bottom line is, every bit of this could have been avoided," Holly Springs Police Chief Tommy Keheley told reporters. 

Officer Joe Burson of the Holly Springs Police Department. (Missouri State Highway Patrol via Twitter)

Who was Joe Burson?

The young officer was just 25 at the time of his death and had just joined the Holly Springs Police Department in January 2020. Before that, he was reportedly a drummer. In 2016, he joined the rock band Rusted Soul and is still considered family by the band. "I didn’t know Joe as Officer Joe," bandmate Kyle Lake told 11 Alive. "I knew him as not just a bandmate, or a husband, I know him as a brother. And there’s not another like him out there." Another bandmate, John Ward called Burson, "One of the best drummers in Atlanta."

Burson is reportedly from Ball Ground, Cherokee County. On April 9, he received a commendation for a traffic stop and was quite popular with both the department and locals. "He was a genuinely good individual," Keheley said. He added, "He was a model officer. If you had the ability to clone your officers, you want your officer to be Joe Burson." The job with Holly springs PD was his first law enforcement job. 

Little else is known about Burson. He is survived by his wife, but she won't be mourning alone. The entire department and wider community have gathered to remember Burson. On Friday, June 18, a candlelight vigil was held for Burson at Barrett Park, which was attended by a large number of people. A fundraiser has also been set up to help Burson's family. His funeral will take place on Monday, June 21.  

Details of the incident are scarce at the moment, but we do know Burson was killed after attempting to stop Ansy Dolce, 29, of Cherokee County. According to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI), Dolce was speeding leading Burson to stop him at the intersection of Harmony Lake Drive and Hickory Road. At some point during that stop, Dolce attempted to escape in his car and dragged Burson down Hickory Road. Burson then fired at Dolce, leading the car to crash.

After first aid was administered on the scene, Burson was taken to Kennestone Hospital, while Dolce was taken to North Fulton Hospital. Both men were pronounced dead early on June 17. The GBI is currently investigating the incident and has obtained bodycam footage from Burson as well as dashcam footage. "Once completed, it (the investigation) will be turned over to the Cherokee County District Attorney’s Office for review," the GBI said in its press release. 

Following the tragic death, Georgia Governor Brian Kemp has ordered flags to be flown at half-staff on June 21. The order says "it is fitting and proper to recognize Officer Burson's service... by lowering the flags on the State Capitol building and in Cherokee County to half-staff."