Bristol, TN – Sullivan County Sheriff’s Office (SCSO) Sergeant Steve Hinkle died in the line of duty on Tuesday afternoon, due to wounds he suffered during a gunfight with a convicted felon on Saturday morning.
The altercation occurred at a residence near State Route 394 on U.S. Highway 11 West, after a family member reported that 44-year-old Jackie Scott Pendergrass was threatening suicide at approximately 12:35 a.m., the Bristol Herald Courier reported.
Multiple units responded to the residence, including 65-year-old Sgt. Hinkle.
When they arrived at the home, Pendergrass fired at least one round at them, Sullivan County Sheriff Jeff Cassidy explained.
The gunman then barricaded himself inside the residence, while deputies pulled back and sought cover.
A short while later, Pendergrass opened fire on the officers again, at which point they returned fire, Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI) Public Information Officer Leslie Earhart told the Bristol Herald Courier.
Sgt. Hinkle was struck during the shootout, and was subsequently rushed to the Bristol Regional Medical Center.
Investigators found Pendergrass dead from gunshot wounds inside the home about 13 hours later, the Times News reported.
Pendergrass was a convicted felon who served time in prison for aggravated burglary and arson, according to the Times News.
The TBI’s investigation into the shooting is ongoing.
"This incident just points out how dangerous law enforcement jobs are," Sullivan County District Attorney General Barry Staubus told the Times News. "Even routine matters can turn out to be deadly."
Hundreds of people gathered together on Sunday to hold a prayer vigil for Sgt. Hinkle, the Bristol Herald Courier reported.
“They need us in these times when they go out here and risk their lives every day for us,” said Sullivan County Commissioner Angie Stanley, who organized the gathering. “I just feel like it’s a time to bring everyone here together as a community, as a whole, to pray for our officers, to pray for our injured officer.”
Sullivan County Commissioner Mark Vance said encouraged citizens to make it a point to let law enforcement officers know they are valued.
“We see them out, we should tell them we appreciate them,” Vance said, according to WHJL. “It shouldn’t take something like this to bring this kind of support.”
Sgt. Hinkle, a 32-year veteran of the force, succumbed to his gunshot wounds on Tuesday afternoon.
“This afternoon, Sullivan County lost a hero,” the SCSO said in a statement, according to the Bristol Herald Courier. “Sgt. Hinkle proudly served Sullivan County with honor and distinction for over twenty-seven years as a full-time employee. He also served as a Reserve Deputy Sheriff for five years prior to his full-time employment.”
Sgt. Hinkle spent several hears of his career working as a school resource officer at Sullivan Central High School, and was a member of the patrol division at the time of his death.
“He's done every facet of the Sullivan County Sheriff's Office when it comes to corrections, patrol, school resource officer, process, courts,” Sheriff Cassidy told WJHL. “He started corrections in 1986, [and] he was sent to the law enforcement training academy in 1987.”
Sheriff Cassidy said the longtime sergeant was a “very loved” member of the SCSO.
“Hinkle is very respected, he is a father, a grandfather, a brother, he is also a brother of our agency and we love him dearly,” the sheriff said.
Our thoughts and prayers are with the family of Sullivan County Sheriff’s Office Sergeant Steve Hinkle, both blood and blue. Thank you for your service.
Sergeant Steve Hinkle, your life mattered.