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Laurel deputy pleads not guilty to murdering man in church parking lot

George Ryan Walters
Photo from JCSD

A former Jones County reserve sheriff’s deputy accused of shooting a man in a church parking lot has pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder and aggravated assault.

George Ryan Walters, 43, was arrested in early April for his involvement in an altercation with 45-year-old James Corey Donald at the Rock Church in Laurel.

Walters, who was a member of the church and served on its security team at the time, had allegedly struck Donald in the face and kicked him in the head before shooting him.

Donald was taken to South Central Regional Medical Center shortly after before succumbing to his injuries.

Autopsy reports later showed that Donald’s cause of death was a gunshot wound on the right side of his back. Mississippi Bureau of Investigation Special Agent Zachary Summers added during court hearings that Donald also had a subarachnoid hemorrhage and abrasions to his head.

Prior to his arrest, Walters was placed on administrative leave from his position as a reserve deputy with the JCSD, as he was off duty at the time of the incident.

Walters was later charged with second-degree murder in early April but had his charges upgraded last week to first-degree murder and aggravated assault – manifesting extreme indifference to life.

Copiah County Judge Lamar Pickard set Walters’ bond at $300,000. Walters’ trial date is now scheduled for January 29, 2024.

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