Motorcyclist charged with murder in death of Georgia state trooper

Man, 21, denied bond in death of Trooper Jimmy Cenescar
Georgia State Patrol Trooper Jimmy Cenescar died Sunday from injuries sustained in a crash on I-85 in Gwinnett County.

Credit: Georgia Department of Public Safety

Credit: Georgia Department of Public Safety

Georgia State Patrol Trooper Jimmy Cenescar died Sunday from injuries sustained in a crash on I-85 in Gwinnett County.

A motorcyclist who fled from a state trooper who then crashed on I-85 has been charged with murder, the Georgia Department of Public Safety announced.

Gerson Ayala Rodriguez, 21, was arrested Friday in Norcross by both the state patrol and Gwinnett County police, according to Col. William Hitchens, DPS commissioner. The suspect was also charged with first-degree vehicular homicide, fleeing and attempting to elude, and reckless driving along with other traffic offenses, Hitchens said.

“Since the event, DPS along with our law enforcement partners have worked tirelessly to investigate the events that led to the fatal crash,” Hitchens said in a video posted on social media.

Rodriguez was denied bond at his first court appearance and remained Monday in the Gwinnett jail.

The crash happened Sunday afternoon on I-85 near Old Peachtree Road when Trooper Jimmy Cenescar, 28, was attempting to stop the motorcycle for a traffic violation, according to investigators.

Instead of stopping, the motorcyclist drove through two lanes of traffic attempting to get away, according to a preliminary crash report released by the DPS.

Cenescar lost control of his Dodge Charger, which struck a guardrail, hit a DOT sign, traveled down an embankment and hit multiple trees and large draining rocks before striking a retaining wall, investigators said. He had to be extricated from the wreckage and was taken to Northside Gwinnett Hospital, where he died from his injuries. According to the report, the trooper was wearing his lap and shoulder belt.

Rodriguez continued traveling northbound and did not stop, investigators said.

Cenescar was the fifth officer to die in the line of duty across the country in 2024, according to the Officer Down Memorial Page, which tracks law enforcement deaths. Of those five, two were from Georgia.

Cenescar had been employed with the DPS since January 2023 and was a graduate of the 114th trooper school, the agency said. He previously worked for Atlanta police.

In October 2021, he saved the life of a motorist who crashed and drove off a bridge on Marietta Road and Thomas Street, Atlanta police said after the incident.

On Thursday, Atlanta police shared memories of Cenescar on Facebook, including photos of the former officer comforting an infant while awaiting family members.

“As we reflect on Jimmy’s life and service, let’s honor his memory by continuing to uphold the values he held dear,” the department’s post said. “He was more than just an officer; he was a beacon of hope and a true credit to the profession.

“Rest in peace, Trooper Jimmy Cenescar. Your legacy lives on in the hearts of all who knew you.”

Gov. Brian Kemp and Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens also offered their condolences to the trooper, his family and his colleagues.

Visitation will be held Feb. 8 from 4 p.m. until 9 p.m. at Crowell Brothers Funeral Home in Peachtree Corners, the DPS said. The funeral is planned for Feb. 9 at 11 a.m. at Mount Paran Church in Atlanta, with burial to follow at Mount Harmony Memorial Gardens in Mableton.

Cenescar is survived by his parents and fiancée, along with a sister and four brothers, according to his online obituary. He was also a student at Georgia Gwinnett College and was on track to graduate in the spring, the college said.