Holly Springs police officer honored as hero

Officer Joe Burson was killed Wednesday evening after being dragged by a vehicle during a traffic stop, according to the GBI.
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Officer Joe Burson was killed Wednesday evening after being dragged by a vehicle during a traffic stop, according to the GBI.

Credit: Holly Springs Police Department

Joe Burson, 24, was the fourth Georgia law enforcement officer killed this year

Less than two years ago, she became Joe Burson’s wife. Last week, she became his widow.

On Monday, Marykate Burson climbed onto the stage at First Baptist Church of Woodstock to share how proud she was of her adoring husband, a Holly Springs police officer and talented rock and roll drummer. A friend read Marykate Burson’s words as she stood there in black, wiping away tears.

“Joseph William, you will forever be my smoking hot officer,” said the widow’s statement, read by her friend, Linda Gragg. “Babe, you were so brave. You died doing what you loved. I couldn’t have asked for anything else. Babe, you will forever be my always, my hero, my officer, my husband… Have a great jam session with Jesus. Hold me a spot. I love you.”

Burson, 24, was killed while conducting a traffic stop for speeding just after 11 p.m. Wednesday at the intersection of Harmony Lake Drive and Hickory Road. Motorist Ansy Dolce, 29, of Cherokee County, attempted to escape in his car during the stop, dragging Burson down Hickory Road before crashing, according to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation. Burson, who fatally shot Dolce during the incident, was transported to Wellstar Kennestone Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

Four Georgia law enforcement officers have been killed in the line of duty this year. Last year, seven were killed while serving.

At his funeral Monday, friends and family remembered Burson as a faithful man who made others around him feel comfortable. He wrote music, he edited video, he once built a BB gun out of garage scraps and PVC pipes. He had a goofy grin and an easy manner, but responded with urgency when the need arose. He’d answer calls at midnight from needy friends.

Longtime friend Anna Streeter delivered his eulogy, calling Burson the “most honorable man I know.”

“He gave his all to the Holly Springs Police Department up until the very end,” she said. “As tough as it is to say, I know Joe Burson died that night doing what he was destined to do. And I know Joe Burson died that night being a hero.”

Streeter highlighted how much Burson loved his wife.

“He just swooned over you,” Streeter told Marykate Burson. “When we would wait to pick you up from school, he would be so giddy and excited to see you. That love never faded and it never will.

“I remember when Joe was over the moon to ask you to dance with huge PVC (pipe) letters spelling ‘Prom’ and an original song he wrote. We had practiced so much for that day. And I fondly recall your smile at him when you said yes. I also recall that same smile when he asked you to be his wife that day at the park.”

Moments later, trumpeter John-Thomas Burson, Joe Burson’s brother, and a guitarist performed “Jesus, We Love You,” a song played at their wedding.

Jason Gerdes, who served as the couple’s pastor, thanked God for Burson.

“Thank you for him being a part of your plan, being the person that he was, the believer in you that he was, the husband that he was, the son, the officer,” said Gerdes, the lead pastor at Revolution Church in Canton. “There is not a person who would have a cross word to say about him. His love for you is so evident. His love for people just as much so… He is the type of man that so many of us aspire to be.”

A Holly Springs police cruiser draped in black cloth and flanked by multicolored wreaths was parked outside the church during the service. A bagpiper played as Burson’s flag-draped coffin was wheeled out of the house of worship. Dozens of uniformed police officers stood at attention while John-Thomas Burson played Taps and a ceremonial rifle team fired three volleys. And then a seemingly unending funeral procession pulled onto Highway 92 for the drive to Burson’s burial in Acworth.

John-Thomas Burson plays Taps after the funeral of Holly Springs Police Officer Joe Burson at First Baptist Church of Woodstock on June 21, 2021.  STEVE SCHAEFER FOR THE ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION
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John-Thomas Burson plays Taps after the funeral of Holly Springs Police Officer Joe Burson at First Baptist Church of Woodstock on June 21, 2021. STEVE SCHAEFER FOR THE ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION

Credit: Steve Schaefer

Credit: Steve Schaefer

Mourners lined the highway, saluting and waving U.S. flags. Vicki Matthews, an accountant from Holly Springs, was among them. She joined her daughter and a pair of friends on the sidewalk in front of a new Culver’s Restaurant across from the church.

“My daughter’s fiancé is a police officer. Her son is a police officer. Her husband is a police officer,” Matthews said, gesturing at her group. “And I live in Holly Springs, so to me this was my backyard. We need to be here today.”

“It’s family for us,” she added. “They are family.”

Following police officers on rumbling motorcycles, Burson’s hearse passed by moments later. Next, his widow rode by, waving at Matthews and the other mourners. The sight of her face made them all tear up.


A police escort drives down Highway 92 in Woodstock after the funeral of Holly Springs Police Officer Joe Burson at First Baptist Church of Woodstock on June 21, 2021STEVE SCHAEFER FOR THE ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION
Caption
A police escort drives down Highway 92 in Woodstock after the funeral of Holly Springs Police Officer Joe Burson at First Baptist Church of Woodstock on June 21, 2021STEVE SCHAEFER FOR THE ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION

Credit: Steve Schaefer

Credit: Steve Schaefer