The bureau, citing the ongoing investigation, did not offer exact details into how the situation progressed from a traffic stop to the dragging incident. However preliminary details suggest, the driver attempted to escape from his vehicle, dragging Burson until the car crashed.
Holly Springs Police Chief Tommy Keheley said that with the investigation ongoing, it was still unclear precisely how Burson died, though they believe it was a "great possibility" the dragging was the ultimate cause.
The GBI said Burson was able to fire shots at the suspect during the dragging. That individual, identified as 29-year-old Ansy Dolce, also died.
According to the GBI, aid was given to both the officer and the suspect.
Chief Keheley called Burson, a 25-year-old native of Ball Ground, a "model officer."
"If you had the ability to clone police officers, you would've wanted your officer to be Joe Burson," he said.
In a Facebook post, GBI Assistant Director John Melvin described Burson as a friend and as "a fundamentally good man."
"He gave his best. He cared about his classmates. He loved his family," Melvin wrote.
Melvin said he and Burson graduated from Police Academy together, and in recounting their friendship said the fallen officer was "at the center and heart of who we were as a class."
"Lord, I need healing. Session 8 (Police Academy class) needs healing. Joe's family needs healing. Holly Springs Police Department needs healing. Please Lord, bind our broken hearts and heal our land," Melvin wrote.
"Thank you for the inspiration that you are and still are. We love you Joe," the GBI official added.
Chief Keheley said he had spoken to Burson's wife overnight in person to deliver the news.
"This is the worst day of any police chief's job. I have had to do this before in the past, this is no different, this is just as tragic as anything I've experienced before," he said.
The bureau also confirmed the officer's body had been taken to the GBI lab for an autopsy.
The Cherokee Sheriff's Office said the area of Hickory Rd. from New Light Rd. to Little Rd. is closed for the investigation.
"That stretch of Hickory Road will likely remain closed throughout the morning. Please avoid that area if possible," the sheriff's office said.
The Holly Springs Police Department lowered its flags to half staff.
Other law enforcement agencies in the area are mourning the officer's death.
"Please keep the Holly Springs Police Department in your thoughts and prayers as we mourn the loss of one of their officers who was killed in the line of duty last night," the Paulding County Sheriff's Office wrote on Facebook.
Woodstock Police said in the afternoon that a funeral procession would be held, shutting down Hwy. 92 East from I-575 to Ragsdale Rd. for several minutes.
Anyone who would like to donate of support to the Burson family, the Holly Hills Springs Police have provided an address:
P.O. Box 1066, Holly Springs, GA 30142
South State Bank located at 1925 Marietta Hwy, Canton, GA 30114