onday, January 12, 1998. It was a cloudy day across Georgia as Deputy Dinkheller was nearing the end of his shift. Positioned on a side street running parallel to Interstate 16 he takes notice of a motorist speeding past him at nearly 100 mph. Dinkheller gives chase and within a short period the motorist pulls to the side of the road. Even with the excessive speed it initially appeared to be a routine traffic stop.
The man, who would be later identified as Andrew Brannan, quickly stepped out of his vehicle with Dinkheller issuing his first command, “driver, step back here to me, come on back here for me.” Brannan was an older man dressed in a ball cap and a large jacket appearing to question the Deputy. Dinkheller again, “come on back.” The men exchange greetings as would be customary in this part of the Country. “How ya doin today?” asks Dinkheller as Brannan begins to walk towards Deputy Dinkheller. Standing towards the back of his white pickup truck Brannan adjusts his jacket and slides his hands into his pockets. Dinkheller, immediately uncomfortable, issued his next command, “Take your hands out of your pockets,” “why?” Brannan responds, “keep your hands out of your pockets,” Dinkheller again communicated.
With his hand on his pistol, Dinkheller moves towards Brannan. Hands still in his pocket, he turns away, “Fuck you, here I am, shoot my fucking ass,” hands stretched upward now almost mocking the deputy, Brannan begins to dance around in the roadway, “Here I am, Here I am,” he lets out in a strange song. “Sir, come here,” Dinkheller says to Brannan, as he continues his dance. Dinkheller keys his mic, “37, 10-78,” requesting assistance. Then, without warning, Brannan turns and moves rapidly towards Dinkheller, “Get back, Sir, Get back!” Dinkheller commands “who you callin’ mother fucker?” Brannan screams at the deputy. “Get back, Sir, Get back!” Dinkheller continues to try to deescalate the situation. Brannan responds, “What the fuck are you doing man, What…” Dinkheller, “Get back,” “No!” screams Brannan, “Get Back!” comes from Dinkheller. “FUCK YOU!” screams Brannan almost right in the face of the Deputy.
“Get back, Sir, get back, get back, SIR! GET BACK!” you can begin to hear Dinkheller’s voice crack. “I am a goddamn Vietnam combat veteran, and I am not…” “Sir, get back!” Brannan again, “Fuck you!” “Get back! Now! Get back!” voices raised and the intensity of the moment accelerates rapidly as these men shout at each other. Dinkheller is trying desperately to get this man before him under control. “Get back! Get back now!”
Dinkheller moves towards Brannan with his baton drawn and shouldered preparing to fight if necessary. Brannan begins to walk back towards the driver’s door of his pickup; Dinkheller just a few feet behind him. “10-78, radio 10-18!” Dinkheller calls out on the radio, concern in his voice. “Fuck you!” Brannan yells back as he opens the door to his car, “Sir! Step back now!” Dinkheller yells. Seeing that the man is not complying, Dinkheller begins to retreat towards his vehicle. “Sir, Get back now!” Dinkheller tries again.
Brannan now inside his vehicle, door open, Dinkheller has no idea what Brannan will do next. “Sir, Get back, get out of the car now!” Dinkheller calls out. “Sir, get out of the car!” almost pleading. Brannan turns towards Dinkheller shouting reasons for what he’s doing, Dinkheller responds, “I’m within my rights, get back here now!” “No!” shouts Brannan, “step away from your vehicle! Put the gun down!” Dinkheller yells. Dinkheller again keys his mic, “Man with a gun, I need help,” can barely be made out from the dash-cam footage of the event. “PUT THE GUN DOWN!” Dinkheller yells as forcefully as possible. “NO!” Brannan responds. “PUT THE GUN DOWN NOW!” Dinkheller yells back as the shouting match continues. Brannan yells out something that is muffled by his position near his vehicle. “PUT THE GUN DOWN!” again from Dinkheller. Brannan leans back inside the vehicle, “DROP THE GUN NOW!” Dinkheller shouts.
Brannan assumes a crouched position as his moves down the side of his vehicle in search of the Deputy who has now moved to use his own vehicle as a position of cover. “Crack!” the first shot rings out, “Crack!, Crack!” rounds begin to go back and forth between Deputy Dinkheller and Brannan impacting the vehicles but missing their intended targets. Crack! Crack! Crack! You can see Brannan bobbing his head up and down to take aim and fire between Dinkheller’s shots. Then Brannan moves violently towards the Deputy’s car, his M1 Carbine being fired from the hip, Crack! Crack! Crack! Brannan disappears from the camera as his runs past Dinkheller’s car, “YAAA AAAHH!!! Screams Dinkheller between shots, “SHOOT, SHOOT, STOP NOW!” heavy breathing heard coming from Deputy Dinkheller. Dinkheller had been hit a few times and Brannan had taken one shot to his stomach.
Brannan retreated to the front of the car to reload. Breathing heavy and severely wounded, Deputy Dinkheller reloads his weapon as well. Dinkheller’s breathing becomes erratic and in a final attempt engages Brannan, Crack! Crack! Crack! They exchange more gunfire. Brannan quickly moves towards Dinkheller, now having crawled to the driver side of his vehicle, taking aim and firing, CRACK! CRACK! CRACK! “AAAHH!!!” a blood curdling scream can be heard from Dinkheller. Crack! “Mother Fucker!” yells Brannan as he fires his last shots and retreats to his pickup where he speeds away. In the few moments left of the dash-cam video you can hear Deputy Dinkheller taking his last breaths. He was pronounced dead on the scene.
Brannan was arrested the next morning. After being captured he was asked why he killed Deputy Dinkheller, his response was chilling, “because he let me.”
So the question is, what happened?
Too often when this video is used in the training environment it is more focused on a tactical judgement rather than a conditional and contextual evaluation. What occurred in the days before and the subtle events that unfolded created cognitive dissonance in DInkheller.
Let’s look a little deeper. If you watched this video first and found yourself judging his decision to shoot or take a different action, I’d like you to consider rewatching it again with a new eye. Imagine for a moment you’ve had a highly stressful week at home, and on the job. You’ve been counseled on excessive use of force, your wife has been consistently upset with you, you’re struggle a bit financially and these last few moments of our shift is your only respite from the craziness. And… you’re only 22 years old. Out of no where comes a car screaming down the road you happen to be sitting on.
You kick into gear and pursue the car. When he finally pulls over you begin to make assumptions about the driver. Your area is not prone to high conflict incidents, with most residents being easy going and polite. When the driver exists the vehicle, he appears to be agitated and fails to follow a simple request. You’re head isn’t in the game, it’s swirling with everything that has happened over the past few days and the impact it’s going to create in the future.
You key your radio to communicate with dispatch and in that moment the driver rushes you. He stops just short as you react quickly brandishing your baton. The incident has escalated. You’re making rapid, moment by moment assessments. You can hear and see that this man may not be in his right mind. You recall your training that instilled a way of handling these situations to reduce the risk of injury to either of you. You issue new commands but they go unheard. You are alone. No one is going to get to you in time to give you the support you need.
Completely ignoring you, the driver goes back to his vehicle. As he pulls away you see it. Shit! he’s got a gun. You move quickly to protect yourself and respond to the new threat. You know he’s not “all there.” Damnit, you think to yourself. Don’t do this. Just put the fucking gun down. He doesn’t.
Bang. Shots fired, shots fired. You’re about 30 feet away, nervous, shaking with slightly blurred vision. You’re doing your best to fall back on your training to see that front site post but your eyes keep darting to the man shooting at you. He runs at you. “What the fuck!?! are you crazy???” screams through your head. You’re confused. Just less than two minutes ago you were closing out your shift quietly and dreading heading home, now you’re in the fight of your life – then it happens. You take a round. It burns but doesn’t over take you. You’re locked in disbelief. “Fuck,” is all you can think to yourself. The man comes at you again as you’re trying to make your way into your car.
You think you’re being clear in your communication to dispatch but it’s coming out garbled and frantic. He’s right there. Right on top of you. And then it happens. The final shot. The one that brings you to the end. All you can think is what went wrong? Why me? What happened? And the world goes dark in a radical state of confusion.
Not so easy anymore. This scenario, in many forms, has played out time and again. We’ve left ourselves vulnerable by allowing things to stack, by not finding an opportunity to recover. We haven’t trained ourselves, our minds and our bodies to pause, to breathe, to focus and to act based on each minor shift in the situation. We haven’t created a transitional flow and we allow the pain of the past or the fear of the future to cloud our perception of the present.
Were there things Dinkheller could have done, sure. Did he have the cognitive and biological capacity necessary to take those actions? no. It’s a cumulative and compounding effect of our lives that cause the greatest disruption to our performance. The lack of resiliency, the concrete expectations, the “way it should be” rather than the way it is creep into the space and push out our ability to flow through the situation with authority and control. It wasn’t his knowledge, his skills or his abilities that failed him that day. It was his lack of mental and biological preparedness that gave way to the situation at hand. And, in 1998, mindset was not something we spoke about very often.