Brannan initially mocked the request, dancing and singing and sarcastically prodding Dinkheller, 22, to shoot him. His mood turned dark quickly, however, and he began screaming that he was a “goddamn Vietnam combat veteran,” and going back to his pickup truck to retrieve a rifle.
The results were horrific: Brannan ignored Dinkheller’s demands to put the gun down, and instead opened fire. The two men exchanged shots, with Brannan suffering one gunshot wound to the abdomen and Dinkheller getting hit nine times. The video shows Dinkheller, a Laurens County deputy, howling in terror and pain as Brannan closes in on him and kills him at point-blank range after reloading.
Seventeen years later, Brannan’s lawyers are still working to stop his execution, scheduled for Tuesday. His lawyers, L. Joseph Loveland Jr. and Brian S. Kammer, said in a recent petition to the Georgia Board Of Pardons And Paroles that the jury who found Brannan guilty in 2000 never heard all the facts of the veteran’s combat-related post-traumatic stress disorder and other mental illnesses.
A clemency hearing is scheduled Monday. It comes at a time when Americans are openly debating altercations with police nationwide, and also how post-traumatic stress should be cared for and considered in modern military veterans. As The Washington Post explored in September, the issue has come up in numerous criminal cases against veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
According to military documents released by Brannan’s legal team, he served as a first lieutenant with the Army in Vietnam from June to December of 1970, working as a forward observer and directing artillery fire to assist nearby infantrymen.
“LT Brannan aggressively and professionally assisted his company commanders with their available fire support,” says one of his evaluation reports. “He often had fire missions requested before the infantry had reported they were in contact. He consistently produced the best trained [forward observer] section supporting this battalion. On two separate occasions LT Brannan unhesitatingly assumed command of the company when it had lost its company commander. LT Brannan has done an outstanding job in a combat environment.”
As noted by The Associated Press this month, it’s not the first time that Brannan’s defense team has attempted to use his history in combat to avoid the death sentence. This time, they say there should be a 90-day stay of execution and his sentence should be commuted on the basis that his fellow soldiers never testified at his initial trial.
“Andrew’s combat experience forever altered his personality and his life,” his lawyers say in the most recent petition. “Although he initially re-entered civilian life, he soon began to manifest signs of serious mental illness, which grew worse over time.”
Brannan was given partial disability in 1984 for PTSD, and a rating of 100 percent in 1990. A Department of Veterans Affairs psychiatrist also diagnosed him with bipolar disorder in 1996, less than two years before the killing. The doctor wrote that Brannan was preoccupied with his time in Vietnam, and found him to be still mourning the death of his brother in 1975, his petition says. He was hospitalized repeatedly.
The lawyers ask the board of pardons and paroles to not impose the “ultimate price” on him for the killing.
“The terrible toll of combat is not an excuse for violent criminal conduct, but it is entirely appropriate for the Board to consider these facts in assessing the retribution that society demands
for the criminal conduct that is triggered by mental illness resulting from combat,” the petition says.
Dinkheller’s family could not be reached for comment. The deputy was married with a small child when he was killed. The video of his death has been shown to police in training repeatedly as an example of how quickly roadside stops can spin out of control.
In a recent Facebook post, his father Kirk made his position clear.
“January 12, 2015 it will be 17 years since my son Kyle was murdered in the line of duty and on January 13, 2015 his killer will finally be held accountable,” he wrote. “Nothing will ever bring my son back, but finally some justice for the one who took him from his children and his family.”