RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Richmond’s newly appointed interim police chief, William “Jody” Blackwell, was involved in a fatal shooting during the search for a burglary suspect more than 15 years ago.
An investigation was launched and a grand jury heard evidence in the case but Blackwell was never charged. The case remains to raise questions.
Digging through archives, 8News has learned that the incident unfolded on Idlewood Avenue near Stafford Avenue. According to newspaper archives from 2002, Blackwell, who was an officer at the time, was searching for a burglary suspect when he encountered 26-year-old Jeramy Gilliam.
Blackwell said Gilliam pulled a gun on him when he asked for ID, leading the two to start wrestling. Officer Blackwell, claiming he feared for his life, shot Gilliam in the back. Gilliam died as a result of injuries.
A resident who lived in the area where the shooting happened told 8News at the time that he thought Blackwell’s actions were justified.
“The way he responded, he responded in an instant and I think he should be commended because it could have been him laying down on the ground,” he said when interviewed by 8News.
Published reports state Gilliam didn’t match a suspect description and that the gun he allegedly pointed at Blackwell was found 35 feet away and lacked fingerprints.
8News spoke with Gilliam’s mother, who said she was shocked to learn Blackwell had climbed up the ranks. In regards to Blackwell’s status, she told 8News “but they look out for each other.”
In an open letter written Friday, Gilliam’s family said they were told Blackwell was put on administrative leave and was no longer part of the RPD and were shocked when they found out he was now the interim police chief.
“We had no doubt about the integrity of Mr. Blackwell, now we question Mayor Levar Stoney’s integrity. Maybe it’s time for him to step down!” the letter said.
During a Thursday press conference when Blackwell was introduced to the city, he was asked about the fatal shooting of Gilliam. One reporter asked: “Can you talk about the 2002 officer involved shooting where you were involved? I think that speaks to exactly what civil unrest is about?”
“It is a completely different situation,” Blackwell replied. “As I said before, I am not going to go into any details associated with it because that is not what we are here for today.”
Blackwell declined 8News’ request for an interview. 8News also reached out to the Richmond’s commonwealth’s attorney at the time, a Richmond judge now, who said it would be inappropriate for him to comment. Other prosecutors on the case said they couldn’t remember the details.
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