Sullivan County deputy succumbs to gunshot wound

Rain Smith • Feb 26, 2019 at 4:12 PM

Sullivan County Sheriff's Office Sgt. Steve Hinkle, 65, passed away on Tuesday, three days after being shot at a welfare check that escalated to a standoff.

Hinkle had been in critical condition at Bristol Regional Medical Center since Saturday morning’s shooting. At about 4:10 p.m. Tuesday, the SCSO advised the media of his death. The opening statement reads, “This afternoon, Sullivan County lost a hero.”

Shortly thereafter, dozens of police and rescue vehicles from throughout the region accompanied Hinkle’s body as it was transported south on Interstate 81. The processional then headed east on Interstate 26 toward Johnson City, where an autopsy is to be performed at the William L. Jenkins Forensic Center at East Tennessee State University.

Hinkle was shot on Saturday at a home on Highway 11-W. A standoff ended about 13 hours later, as police forced entry into the residence to find Jackie Scott Pendergrass, 44, dead.

Officers were originally called to the scene for a welfare check at about 12:35 a.m. Pendergrass was reportedly threatening to harm himself. When deputies arrived, Pendergrass  allegedly opened fire and police took cover. The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation said that about 45 minutes later, Pendergrass again shot at police.

That spurred an exchange of gunfire, according to police, and Hinkle was shot by Pendergrass. Hinkle was transported from the scene by EMS and the standoff didn’t end until mid-Saturday afternoon. That’s when officers stormed the residence to find Pendergrass dead.

Investigation of the incident is being conducted by the TBI. Among the answers being sought is whether Pendergrass died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound or return fire from police. 

Hinkle was a full-time SCSO employee for 25 years. Prior to that, he served as a reserve deputy for five years. Details on his funeral arrangements are expected to be released over the coming days. 

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