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Records show man accused of killing Florence Airport officer has history of violence against law enforcement

James Bell was released from prison after serving 15 years in Florida
Updated: Jan. 7, 2020 at 5:55 PM EST
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FLORENCE, S.C. (WIS) - The Florida man accused of killing a Florence Regional Airport officer on Sunday was released from prison in 2017 after serving 15 years in the Florida Department of Corrections.

James Bell, 37, is facing several charges including murder, possession of a weapon during a violent crime, firing into a vehicle and armed robbery. During his arraignment hearing Tuesday morning, no bond was set. He will await another hearing on April 30 to have bond evaluated by a judge.

Jackson Winkeler, 26, was killed after he initiated a traffic stop at the airport early Sunday morning. According to SLED warrants, deputies found more than 30 spent shell casings on the ground around Winkeler’s body. A 9mm gun was also found on the ground nearby, but deputies noticed Winkeler’s gun was missing.

A bullet hole was also found near the driver’s side mirror of his police cruiser.

When Florence County deputies found Bell a short time later, he is accused of having Winkeler’s gun in his possession along with a magazine that deputies said matched the 9 mm found on the ground at the scene.

Warrants list Miami-Dade County as Bell’s home. According to online records, Bell’s run-ins with the law stem back 20 years when he was 16 years old.

In 1999, he was convicted of grand theft auto, two counts of burglary, and resisting an officer with violence. Records show he was sentenced to 60 days in jail. In 1999, he was charged with fleeing law enforcement, resisting an officer with violence, and two counts of battery against a law enforcement officer. He was sentenced to a year and a half in prison, but because of time served in county jail leading up to his 2001 sentencing, Bell served just one month in prison.

In 2001, he faced 11 charges, some of which included four counts of grand theft auto, fleeing law enforcement, grand theft auto, and burglary. He was sentenced on six of the charges, while the others were suspended. A judge sentenced him to 15 years in prison.

According to the Florida Department of Corrections, Bell served the entire 15-year sentence. A summary of his disciplinary records shows he was written up 83 times while incarcerated for things like fighting, threatening others, weapons and not respecting staff.

The circumstances surrounding Winkeler’s death are still under investigation. The family’s pastor, James Orr, said the family has experienced tragedy in the past, too.

"You know their world is falling in around them,” he said. “Unfortunately, they've gone through a tragedy like this before. In 2001 their oldest son was killed in a tragic car accident and then that event was bad enough and then the circumstances surrounding this event are just so much worse."

Visitation for Winkeler will be held from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Wednesday, Jan. 8 at Pyerian Baptist Church located at 2813 Pyerian Road in Latta.

His funeral will be held at 11 a.m. Thursday, Jan. 9 at the Florence Center at 3300 W. Radio Drive.

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