A Georgia pastor and his wife filed a wrongful death lawsuit Tuesday against the Hancock County Sheriff’s Department and the deputy involved in the shooting death of their son in December.
The Rev. Dwight Winkley and his wife, Catherine Winkley, and their daughter are listed as plaintiffs in the suit filed against the Hancock County Sheriff’s Department, Sheriff Ricky Adam, former Deputy Michael Chase Blackwell and five other unnamed defendants
“We just want justice in whatever form the Constitution allows,” the Rev. Winkley said.
“The lack of transparency and communication has caused us to constantly relive this nightmare,” Catherine Winkley said.
The family hired attorney Lance Stevens to represent them.
Family denied look at body cam footage, lawsuit says
The attorney had already informed the defendants of their intent to sue over the Dec. 10, 2022, shooting death of the couple’s son, Isaiah Winkley.
Blackwell is the deputy believed to have shot and killed 23-year-old Isaiah Winkley, who was a student at Pensacola Christian College.
The lawsuit filed in federal court in Gulfport accuses the Sheriff’s Department, the sheriff, Blackwell and other unnamed defendants of violating Winkley’s constitutional rights and acting with alleged negligence, malfeasance and reckless conduct in causing Winkley’s death.
Since the shooting, Stevens said the Mississippi Bureau of Investigations, which investigates all police shootings in Mississippi, has refused to allow the family to review body camera footage of their son’s death.
An autopsy report showed Winkley had been shot five times.
“The Sheriff’s Department and their attorneys continue to refuse to allow anyone to view the body cam footage depicting the shooting of Isaiah Winkley,” Stevens has said in previous interviews. “The family has no choice but to seek justice in federal court and hope to gain access to the information which will show why a young, unarmed college student, with no criminal history, was gunned down without provocation.
“Losing a son with his entire life in front of him is agonizing to the family. Government operatives withholding all information about that shooting is downright cruel.”
Isaiah Winkley shot to death by sheriff’s deputy
Around 6:30 p..m on Dec. 10, 2022, Winkley was in his car in Perkinston when his vehicle apparently ‘slightly left” St. Matthew Road in front of St. Matthew the Apostle Church near the intersection of Highway 603 and got stuck in some mud.
From there, the suit says, Winkley walked down the road in an attempt to find help when he saw an empty house, where he thought he could find help or ‘some means for a rescue.”
A witness saw Winkley on the home’s front porch with a hand-operated winch with a ratchet used to pull stuck items, the suit says.
Someone called the Sheriff’s Department, and at least three deputies, believed to be Blackwell and deputies Christopher Dunn Sholar and Laura Lynn Yager, went to the home and found Winkley there.
The lawsuit says that the deputies had their “ guns drawn” when they encountered Winkley but never came within 20 to 25 feet of him prior to his killing.
Winkley’s family says he was not armed at the time of his killing.
Hancock sheriff’s deputy resigns after shooting
Blackwell, the department’s then K-9 deputy, was “removed” from the Hancock County Sheriff’s Department’s payroll effective May 24, according to the minutes of the June 5 meeting of the board of supervisors.
The sheriff said Blackwell resigned over “some personnel issues within the office,” but he would not elaborate.
Blackwell, who had also worked as a Gulfport police officer in the past, has declined to comment when reached by the Sun Herald.