Murder charges upgraded against Jones Co. reserve deputy in deadly church shooting

Geroge Ryan Walters, 43, of Laurel.
Geroge Ryan Walters, 43, of Laurel.(Jones County Sheriff's Department)
Published: Aug. 16, 2023 at 11:43 PM CDT
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JONES COUNTY, Miss. (WDAM) -A Jones County reserve deputy accused of shooting and killing a man in a church parking lot earlier this year has been indicted on an upgraded charge of first-degree murder and aggravated assault.

George Ryan Walters, 43, of Laurel was booked into the Jones County Adult Detention Center Wednesday at 4:02 p.m. on charges of murder and aggravated assault - manifesting extreme indifference to life.

Thirteenth Circuit Court District Attorney Chris Hennis’ office is prosecuting the case. He said Walters was originally charged with second-degree murder, but the charge was upgraded.

The 13th Circuit Court got this case after the Jones County District Attorney’s Office recused itself.

Hennis said Walters’ next court hearing date will be his arraignment day, where his bond is expected to be set on those charges. That date has not been officially set at this time.

Walters was an off-duty auxiliary deputy with JCSD at the time of the shooting that killed 45-year-old James Corey Donald, according to a JCSD spokesperson.

Officials said Walters was a member of The Rock Church and its security team.

Additional details came to light during Walters’ first court appearance in April when he passed out in court and received medical attention.

During that hearing, Mississippi Bureau of Investigation Special Agent Zachary Summers testified Donald was seen on a church security video approaching a church door.

While reaching for the door, Walters exited the church, and the two men had a brief conversation outside the doorway. Summers said that Walters then initiated a physical altercation by briefly striking Donald in the face with his fist.

The agent said Donald ran away from the doorway, and Walters followed.

Summers said Walters then shot Donald as he continued to run before stopping at the southeast corner of the church, where he fell to the ground. Walters also kicked Donald in the head, according to Summers.

Donald was taken to the South Central Regional Medical Center in Laurel that night, where he was later pronounced dead.

Summers said that according to autopsy results, Donald appeared to have died from a gunshot wound to the back. There were also signs of a subarachnoid hemorrhage and abrasions to the victim’s head

Investigators did recover one bullet from the right side of Donald’s back.

Earlier in the investigation, the Jones County Sheriff’s Department said Donald had been shot during an altercation with Walters. Initial statements from Jones County Sheriff Joe Berlin indicated that Donald may have reached for Walter’s firearm. However, allegations revealed during Walters’ April 2023 hearing did not mention or support those claims.

This story will be updated when more information is provided.

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