MBI: Man killed at Mississippi church didn’t reach for deputy’s gun; death caused by kick to the head and gunshot to the back

Published 8:58 pm Monday, April 10, 2023

Evidence shows a reserve sheriff’s deputy who fatally shot a man at a Mississippi church punched the victim in the face and chased him into a parking lot before shooting him and kicking him in the head, according to testimony at a recent bond hearing.

However, WDAM-TV reports, there’s no evidence that the victim started a physical fight or first reached for the gun of the reserve deputy, George Ryan Walters, according to testimony from Mississippi Bureau of Investigation Special Agent Zachary Summers describing church security video.

The Jones County Sheriff’s Department had said James Corey Donald was shot during an altercation with Walters. Initial statements from Jones County Sheriff Joe Berlin indicated Donald may have reached for Walter’s gun.

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Walters has been charged with second-degree murder in the April 3 shooting of death of the 45-year-old Donald at The Rock Church in Laurel. A lawyer for Walters didn’t immediately respond to an email on Monday seeking comment.

Walters is an unpaid Jones County reserve deputy who attends the church and is a member of the church’s security team. A 2016 Mississippi law provides legal protections to people designated by churches to undergo firearms training and provide security.

Walters passed out during the bond hearing and was taken from the courthouse in an ambulance.

Summers said autopsy results suggest Donald died from a gunshot wound to the back. He testified that there were also signs of internal bleeding around the brain and abrasions to Donald’s head.

Jones County Circuit Judge Dal Williamson has assigned Simpson County District Attorney Chris Hennis to prosecute the case. Hennis will decide whether to seek an indictment once MBI agents complete their inquiry.