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Jan 13, 9:32 PM EST

Georgia executes man for killing a deputy in traffic stop


AP Photo
AP Photo/Georgia Department of Corrections

JACKSON, Ga. (AP) -- A man who fatally shot a sheriff's deputy who stopped him for speeding on a Georgia interstate was put to death Tuesday for the 1998 killing, which was captured on the patrol car's video camera.

Andrew Howard Brannan, 66, was pronounced dead at 8:33 p.m. Tuesday after a single-drug injection at the state prison in Jackson. He was convicted in the January 1998 shooting death of Kyle Dinkheller, a 22-year-old sheriff's deputy in Laurens County, central Georgia.

"I extend my condolences to the Dinkheller family, especially Kyle's parents and his wife and his two children," Brannan said moments before the injection was administered.

"I really feel like I was in a status of slow torture over the last 15 years," Brannan said, adding that he knows the Department of Corrections has a limited budget and probably did the best they could. "It sure was tough on me, so I'm certainly glad to be leaving."

The warden read the execution order and then left the death chamber at 8:19 p.m. Records from past executions have shown that the drugs generally start flowing within a minute or two of the warden leaving.

Brannan had his eyes closed and, after a couple of minutes, took several deep breaths before falling completely still.

Lawyers for Brannan, a Vietnam veteran, had argued his life should be spared, saying the shooting was tied to mental illness directly traced to Brannan's military service.

Dinkheller had stopped Brannan for driving 98 mph and demanded he take his hands from his pockets during a traffic stop, officials said Brannan then began cursing, dancing in the street and saying "shoot me" before he rushed the deputy. After a scuffle, Brannan pulled a high-powered rifle from his car and shot Dinkheller at least nine times, authorities said.

The confrontation was captured by a video camera in Dinkheller's patrol car and a microphone he wore. Parts, including the scuffle between the two, happened off camera, according to court documents. But Dinkheller can be heard yelling orders at Brannan, who responded with expletives, authorities said. Brannan can also be seen crouching by his car and firing at the deputy as Dinkheller yelled at him to stop. Brannan walked toward the patrol car, still firing, exhausted one magazine, reloaded and continued firing, authorities said.

Police found Brannan the next day hiding under a camouflage tarp near his home. He had been shot in the stomach, apparently by Dinkheller.

Dinkheller, who was married, had been promoted months before to an elite interstate highway squad. He had nearly three years with the sheriff's department.

The Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles held a clemency hearing Monday and denied the request to commute the sentence to life without parole.

"Is it right to execute a mentally-ill veteran whose sole incidence of violent behavior is traceable directly and inexorably to mental illness resulting from his combat service?" Brannan's lawyers had written in a clemency petition.

Brannan volunteered to serve in the U.S. Army in 1968 and received two Army Commendation Medals and a Bronze Star for his service in the Vietnam War, the clemency petition said, adding he was repeatedly exposed to death and violence in Vietnam.

Veterans Administration doctors had diagnosed Brannan with post-traumatic stress disorder in 1984 and determined that his condition had deteriorated to the point of 100 percent disability by 1990, the petition said. That mental illness was compounded by bipolar disorder diagnosed in 1996, his lawyers added.

Brannan was convicted and sentenced to death in 2000. He challenged the legality of his conviction and sentence in 2003, and a state court judge threw out his sentence on grounds that his trial lawyer failed to present complete mental health defenses. But the Georgia Supreme Court later tossed out that ruling and reinstated the death sentence.

Brannan's lawyers made several last attempts in the courts to halt his execution. The U.S. Supreme Court declined to step in shortly after 7:30 p.m.

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