Findings of grand jury investigation of deadly Sullivan County officer-involved shooting released

According to 2nd District Attorney General Barry Staubus, a Sullivan County grand jury has returned the results of the deadly February officer-involved shooting.

Sullivan County Sheriff’s Office Sgt. Steve Hinkle was killed during the shootout with suspect Jackie Scott Pendergrass.

According to the report, the autopsy revealed Hinkle died after being shot in the head with a .22 caliber weapon.

The Grand Jury determined Sullivan County law enforcement involved in the exchange of gunfire acted within the guidelines of the Sullivan County Sheriff’s Office Use of Force Policy.

GALLERY: Remembering the life of Sgt. Steve Hinkle

Read the full report below:

Following standard protocol for investigating incidents involving law enforcement officers of Sullivan County, District Attorney General Barry Staubus contacted the Tennessee Bureau of Investigations and requested an independent investigation of a shooting in which both a Sullivan County Deputy and a Sullivan County citizen received fatal injuries.

After a completely thorough investigation, a TBI special agent presented testimony to the Grand Jury about this incident which occurred on the morning of February 23, 2019, when officers were responding to a welfare check at a home located on Highway 11-W.  In addition to testimony, there was timeline information, diagrams, photographs, statements, and autopsy reports.  The TBI agent also testified to the Sullivan County Sheriff’s Office Use of Force Policy.

The Sullivan County Sheriff’s officers arrived after receiving a call from Jackie Scott Pendergrass’ wife requesting a home welfare check because of threats made by Mr. Pendergrass to kill himself and their dogs.  Steve Hinkle and other officers were at the outside of the residence establishing a perimeter when Pendergrass fired his weapon from a window.  Sullivan County Sheriff’s officers returned fire and struck Mr. Pendergrass in his back.  It was a non-fatal injury.  Sergeant Hinkle was struck in the head and subsequently transported to Bristol Regional Medical Center where he later died.  Tear gas was subsequently discharged into the house in an effort to force Mr. Pendergrass to exit the home.  He did not exit, and a robot was then used to make entry into the home and Pendergrass was found dead from a wound to his head.  Two of the family dogs also sustained fatal gunshot wounds by Mr. Pendergrass

Sergeant Hinkle’s autopsy report revealed that he died from a single gunshot wound to the head, received from a .22 caliber weapon.  The manner of death was homicide.  The .22 caliber weapon was located under the body of Mr. Jackie Scott Pendergrass.  A .38 caliber revolver was also located with Mr. Pendergrass’ body.  All law enforcement officers on scene were found to be in possession of .40 Glock weapons.  The autopsy report for Mr. Pendergrass revealed he received two gunshot wounds, a perforating indeterminate-range gunshot wound to the back torso and a contact-range wound to the head.  That report also stated that the cause of Mr. Pendergrass’ death was a perforating contact-range gunshot wound of the head and the manner of death was suicide. 

In conclusion, the Grand Jury also determined that all Sullivan County law enforcement officers involved in the exchange of gunfire acted within the guidelines of the Sullivan County Sheriff’s Office Use of Force Policy. 

General Staubus told News Channel 11 that this tragedy is a reminder of the danger law enforcement officers face each day.

It’s a terrible situation and it also points out how dangerous a police officer’s job is, and that even a routine call can turn out to be non routine. It can be fatal, Staubus said. And I think that there’s been a whole expression of sadness and also appreciation for what officer Hinkle has done for the community, but also what police officers do.

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