Gov. Kemp joins family in mourning trooper killed in the line of duty

Jimmy Cenescar was 28
Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp speaks during the Friday funeral for Trooper Jimmy Cenescar.

Credit: Livestream photo

Credit: Livestream photo

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp speaks during the Friday funeral for Trooper Jimmy Cenescar.

Natalie Croom dreamed of planning her wedding. Instead, on Friday, she attended her beloved’s funeral.

“Even when you’re not with me, I can always feel your love,” she said Friday during the memorial for Georgia State Patrol Trooper Jimmy Cenescar. “Even though he’s not with us, you always feel his love.”

Cenescar was killed in a crash Jan. 28 while pursuing a motorcyclist accused of violating several traffic laws on I-85 in Gwinnett County. He was 28.

Gov. Brian Kemp and numerous law enforcement officers joined grieving friends and loved ones at the service at Mount Paran Church in Atlanta.

“We consider this a deep loss for our entire state,” Kemp said, “and we are grieving with you.”

Jimmy Cenescar rescued a driver who plunged from a bridge in October 2021.

Credit: Atlanta police

icon to expand image

Credit: Atlanta police

A native of Haiti, Cenescar moved with his family to the U.S. as a 4-year-old and was raised in Orlando before the family settled in Paulding County. In addition to his fiancée, he is survived by his parents, sister and four brothers. The family wore ties and corsages of blue to honor Cenescar’s devotion to his career.

Mourners remembered Cenescar as a hero. He was working for the Atlanta Police Department in 2021 when a man flagged him down during one overnight shift. A red BMW had plunged off a northwest Atlanta bridge, and the driver was still inside as the car dangled over a segment of the Norfolk Southern-Inman railyard.

“He is down there!” the man shouted to the young officer. “Help him!”

A large, locked gate blocked his way but after getting permission from a supervisor, Cenescar pushed through the gate with his patrol vehicle so he could rescue the driver.

“It was a very chaotic scene. I just knew I had to get everything under control,” Cenescar said at the time. “My training kicked in and I just took action.”

He joined the Georgia State Patrol after three years with the Atlanta Police Department.

He was killed in a crash while pursuing a motorcyclist who refused a traffic stop and fled at speeds reaching 140 mph, according to investigators. Cenescar lost control of his patrol vehicle and crashed.

Days later, Gerson Danilo Ayala Rodriguez, who investigators said didn’t have a driver’s license or valid license plate on his motorcycle, was was arrested and charged with murder and vehicular homicide, according to the Department of Public Safety. The Norcross man faces several other charges, including fleeing and attempting to elude, reckless driving, tampering with evidence, speeding and driving without a license.

In addition to his law enforcement career, Cenescar was a student at Georgia Gwinnett College on track to graduate in the spring.

Several relatives spoke during Friday’s service.

“Jimmy passed doing what he loved,” said his brother, Joel Cenescar. “His job was what he did.”

Following the service, burial followed at Mount Harmony Memorial Gardens in Mableton.


Three Georgia law enforcement officers have died in the line of duty during the first six weeks of 2024.

Tuesday: A Crawford County sheriff’s deputy died after being involved in a two-vehicle wreck while on duty, investigators said. Timothy Tavarus Rivers, 40, was responding to assist another officer around 10 p.m. when his patrol vehicle crossed into the opposite travel lane on Marshall Mill Road, about 20 miles southwest of Macon, according to the Georgia State Patrol.

Jan. 4: Deputy Eric Minix with the Coweta County Sheriff’s Office died after being hit by an Alabama police officer’s patrol car as he stepped out of his own vehicle at the end of a chase, according to investigators. The deputy had been involved in a pursuit of a stolen vehicle on I-85 that extended into Chambers County, Alabama. Minix, 31, is survived by a wife and three children.

Jan. 28: Trooper Jimmy Cenescar with the Georgia State Patrol died in a crash while attempting to stop a motorcyclist in Gwinnett County, according to investigators. He was 28. 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.