‘He’s a hero:’ Airport officer remembered following shooting death

Pee Dee Crime

FLORENCE, SC (WBTW) – Communities in the Pee Dee continued to mourn the death of a Florence Regional Airport officer Monday.

Officer Jackson Winkeler was fatally shot early Sunday morning during a traffic stop at the airport, authorities say. He was 26-years-old.

Officer Winkeler was also a firefighter in Latta, News13 learned Monday. His fellow firefighters there were still in shock following Sunday’s tragedy.

“He put everybody before he put his own self,” Latta fire Lieutenant John Bethea said. He’d known Winkeler almost his whole life. “He was just an all around good fireman.”

Not just a fireman- Winkeler was a friend. And one that Bethea said would not be forgotten.

“Jackson’s always going to have a spot in my heart, but it’s going to bring us together,” Lt. Bethea said. “The whole community. We’re going to be a whole lot closer tonight.”

He said Winkeler was supposed to start training to be a police officer Sunday.

On Monday, Officer Winkeler’s body was escorted from MUSC back to Florence.

Visitation for Officer Winkeler will be held Wednesday from 6 p.m. until p.m. at Pyerian Baptist Church, 2813 Pyerian Road in Latta.

Funeral services will be held at 11 a.m., Thursday at the Florence Center located at 3300 W. Radio Drive, Florence.

The South Carolina Law Enforcement Division identified James Edward Bell, 37, as the suspect in this case. He is being held at the Florence County Detention Center and is expected to face a judge Tuesday morning.

James Edward Bell (Courtesy: Florence County Detention Center)

The Florence County Sheriff’s Office stepped in to help the airport’s department following this loss.

“The Florence County Sheriff’s Office is taking over the responsibility of the airport police services temporarily until the funeral of Officer Winkeler,” Lt. Anthony Fox said. “And we’re doing that as a courtesy to the Florence Regional Airport Department of Public Safety so that they can have time for mourning.”

Lt. Fox said this is a tragedy that will be hard to overcome.

“It’s potentially the worst possible day in your career to have a loss like this.” he said. “Especially in a small law enforcement community like the one we have in Florence County.”

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