Honoring his son: Local man shares video of his son’s death to save other officers
Monday, September 11, 2017 - 11:10am
He still hears the shots that killed his son; hears his son try to take control of a dangerous situation; hears his son say he fears for his life; and, he hears his son scream as he dies.
Kirk Dinkheller is a man on a mission – a mission to keep other young people from making the mistakes his son Kyle made.
Kyle Dinkheller was a deputy with the Laurens County Sheriff’s Office and had worked there for three years. He had a wife and a child. There was another child on the way.
She found out she was pregnant the same day she was told her husband had died, shot and left on the side of the road near Dudley. Kyle was 23.
Dinkheller wants to help other law enforcement officers learn from the terrible tragedy that took his son’s life. So he shows officers a video made from Kyle’s dash cam at the time of his death.
“When I first started, it was with David Hannah,” Dinkheller said, adding this was when Hannah was the police chief of Wrens. Hannah asked Dinkheller to show the video during a meeting.
“It was a training class. That’s when it got started; and, it’s been pretty much just word of mouth,” Dinkheller said.
“When they see the tape, I want them to realize the mistakes that he (Kirk) made on the stop; and he made mistakes. If he was sitting here right now, he’d tell you the same thing.
“I just want new officers that are just going to school and even seasoned officers to realize not to take any traffic stop as a routine traffic stop. It’s like people say, Dudley, a little Podunk town, they don’t have any problems like that. Well, yeah, they do.”
Thinking nothing ever happens here can lead officers to drop their guard.
“They get complacent; and, that’s what my whole focus is. It’s to not be complacent and just think it’s a routine traffic stop; because, they never are. I want them to keep it in the back of their mind when they’re doing a traffic stop, all of a sudden this video that they’ve seen for the last hour is etched in their minds and they stop and think, ‘Well, wait a minute, this reminds me of something.’”
That’s exactly what it does, said Maj. Eric Snowberger, lead instructor at Augusta Tech’s Police Academy. Dinkheller has been showing his video to every class the major has had since Snowberger began teaching at the academy about seven years ago.
“As far as the students and their reactions, I know that I’ve had students come back. They come back when they know he’s (Dinkheller) coming; and, they will come back just to see him,” Snowberger said.
Former students who come to see Dinkheller tell the major they have had situations come up; and, the video runs through their mind.
The video made from the dashcam recorded the last few moments of Kyle’s life. It shows a motorist Kyle stopped for speeding dance in the road and shout, “Shoot me!”
By this time, Kyle has given the motorist, Andrew H. Brannan, several commands, none of which he obeys.
He won’t walk back to Kyle. He won’t take his hands out of his pockets. He won’t stay out of his truck. And he won’t put down his rifle.
Moments later, seconds really, the motorist is wounded and leaving the scene. Kyle lies dying. It was Monday, Jan. 12, 1998; and, Kyle was near the end of his shift.
The next day, police arrested Brannan who was still in Laurens County.
At his trial, Brannan pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity. The Department of Veterans Affairs had declared Brannan 100 percent disabled because of depression and bipolar disorder. He said he suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder from his military service in Vietnam where Brannan received the Bronze Star.
A jury found Brannan guilty. He was sentenced to death. Appeals on the sentence failed. He died Jan. 13, 2015, from a lethal injection, having spent the time from his 1998 arrest until his death behind bars.
When asked how he would have felt if one of those appeals had worked and Brannan’s sentence was reduced to life in prison, Kirk quietly but firmly said, “No, I wouldn’t have been OK with it.”
Snowberger said the video does affect his students.
“They are typically taken aback by it,” he said. There is a full presentation of the video; and, then Dinkheller comes up, introduces himself and talks for about five minutes.
“He’s been in every one of my classes since then,” Snowberger said. “It is something that can definitely make officers aware. They learn from this video and have it in their mental toolbox so they would react as necessary.
“It definitely makes an impression. It’s something that my students have definitely benefitted from watching.”
Dinkheller said his son had been a typical teenager. He liked to hunt and fish; and, now when Kirk goes hunting or fishing, he thinks of Kyle.
“When I show the tape, people ask me, that’s the first thing they ask me. ‘How can you stand there, show this video and listen to your son getting murdered over and over?’ And I tell them I don’t have to watch that tape. It’s in my head on auto replay 24/7. So I mean I don’t need to watch the video to hear it. I live it every day.”
Dinkheller also pays tribute to his son in another way. He makes American flags out of wood and gives these to law enforcement agencies. In the middle of each he paints a thin blue line, a salute to the men and women who put their lives on the line every day to protect the public.
If someone wants a flag, Dinkheller said they just call him and ask for one.
“Any law enforcement that wants it for their agency, I don’t charge them,” he said.
One of these flags hangs in the lobby of the Glascock County Sheriff’s Office, another is in Burke County’s sheriff’s office.
Dinkheller said Kyle was a typical kid.
“He loved his job. He loved being a deputy. He liked helping people. And he gave everybody the benefit of the doubt. He’d give them every opportunity to do what was right. If he stopped them for whatever reason, everybody would tell you that he was always polite to them, never out of the way.”
The video shows Kyle to be the type of person his father remembers.
“That’s him. That’s the way he always was. Even as a kid. He wasn’t mean to anybody.”