Autopsy shows Sullivan County deputy died from single gunshot wound

Matthew Lane • Jun 4, 2019 at 6:00 PM

BLOUNTVILLE — A Sullivan County grand jury has released its findings into a deadly February shooting that claimed the life of veteran deputy Sgt. Steve Hinkle.

An investigation into the shooting found that Hinkle was killed by a single gunshot fired by 44-year-old Jackie Scott Pendergrass. According to a report, Pendergrass shot himself in the head later in the standoff with authorities.


Hinkle and other deputies with the Sullivan County Sheriff’s Office responded to the home of Pendergrass on Feb. 23. Pendergrass’ wife requested a home welfare check due to threats made by her husband to kill himself and their dogs.

When deputies arrived at the scene, Pendergrass opened fire, and Hinkle was struck in the head. He died three days later at Bristol Regional Medical Center. When deputies breached the house, they found Pendergrass dead from an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound.

In the aftermath of the incident and following standard protocol, District Attorney General Barry Staubus contacted the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation and requested an independent investigation of the shooting.

The results of that investigation were recently presented to a Sullivan County grand jury, the findings of which were released on Tuesday.


Hinkle and other officers were outside Pendergrass’ residence establishing a perimeter when Pendergrass opened fire from a window. Deputies returned fire and struck Pendergrass in his back with a non-fatal injury.

Hinkle was struck in the head and subsequently transported to the hospital.

Deputies then discharged tear gas into the house in an effort to force Pendergrass to exit. He did not exit, and a robot was then used to make entry into the home. Pendergrass was found dead from a self-inflicted gunshot wound to his head. Two of the family dogs also sustained fatal gunshot wounds by Pendergrass.

An autopsy report revealed that Hinkle died from a single gunshot wound to the head, received from a .22  caliber weapon. The .22 caliber weapon was located under the body of Pendergrass, while a .38 caliber revolver was also located nearby.

According to the findings, all law enforcement officers at the scene were found to be in possession of .40 caliber Glock weapons.

In conclusion, the grand jury 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.

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