Grand jury indicts man in I-85 chase that killed Georgia state trooper

A Gwinnett County grand jury has indicted a man on a murder charge in connection with a high-speed chase that ended in a deadly crash on Interstate 85.

Georgia State Trooper Jimmy Cenescar died after a crash on Sunday, Jan. 28, while attempting to stop a motorcycle for a traffic violation on I-85. Cenescar's vehicle left the road and struck an embankment, trees, and a retaining wall. Emergency personnel responded and attempted life-saving measures before he was rushed to Northside Gwinnett Hospital where he passed away. He was 28 years old.

On Feb. 2, the GSP announced the arrest of Gerson Ayala-Rodriguez in connection to Cenescar's death. He was arrested in Norcross and taken into custody by the GSP and Gwinnett County police.

Gerson Rodriguez (FOX 5 Atlanta)

This week, a grand jury formally charged Ayala-Rodriguez with felony murder, first-degree homicide, felony fleeing, tampering with evidence, and three counts of fleeing or attempting to elude a police officer. He also faces misdemeanor charges of reckless driving, speeding, two counts of driving without a license, operating a vehicle without insurance, and operating an unregistered vehicle.

"The important thing to remember is that this defendant’s reckless behavior led to the tragic death of Trooper Jimmy Cenescar," Gwinnett County District Attorney Patsy Austin-Gatson said in a statement. "This was inexcusable, and we intend to prosecute this case to the fullest extent of the law."

Officials say the tampering with evidence charges came after Ayala-Rodriguez destroyed his motorcycle's license plate after the chase.

Ayala-Rodriguez remains in custody at the Gwinnett County Jail without bond.

Who was Georgia State Trooper Jimmy Cenescar?

Born in Haiti, Cenescar was inspired by his aunt to pursue a career in law enforcement.

In 2021, he was credited with risking his own safety to save a man's life who had driven a car off a cliff in northwest Atlanta.

"I knew I had to take action quickly to get that driver out of the vehicle because I knew there were train tracks," said Cenescar, who worked with the Atlanta Police Department at the time.

 Jimmy Cenescar

At his funeral, Cenescar's brother said that as a kid, he wanted to be an astronaut when he grew up, but policing became his life's passion.

"Jimmy passed doing what he loved," his brother said. "That’s something that you guys need to understand, that’s something he loved."

Following his death, politicians across the state reacted to his family's loss and paid tribute to the law enforcement officer's service.

"I would urge all Georgians to keep this family and his fiancee in your thoughts and prayers as they continue to deal with this horrific loss on behalf of our state," Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp said.

He was buried at Mount Harmony Memorial Gardens in Mableton on Feb. 9.