Investigators using social media to work up profile of truck driver killed after police pursuit
A man from Harrisonburg, Va., whose social media posts indicate he thought he spoke directly to God and received visions of the devil, has been identified as the driver of a tractor-trailer involved in a high-speed pursuit through three counties last night before he engaged in a shoot-out with police near Geneseo.
Joshua Blessed, formerly Sergio Jourev, 58, was killed in the incident. He had also posted a video to his YouTube account with the headline "Brave Patriot defending US Constitution and 2A vs. Domestic terrorist gang member 'blue devils.' "
The video is taken from the dashcam of a police patrol vehicle and shows what appears to be a traffic stop where the driver opened fire on the police officer and engaged in a protracted gun battle before fleeing in his sedan.
The description of the video asks viewers to join Blessed's "militia" and links to a website where he claims that in February 2018 he received a new message from heaven calling on him to recruit an army to fight a new civil war.
Livingstone County Sheriff Thomas J. Dougherty said Blessed fired numerous rounds at officers and struck four patrol vehicles, two from Livingston County, one from Genesee County, and one from Le Roy PD.
The bullet that hit the Genesee County Sheriff's patrol car entered through the windshield, struck the headrest and became lodged in the plexiglass divider between the back and front seats.
"I believe if he wasn't ducking, then it would have been right to his head," Dougherty said.
Blessed was employed by a trucking company, Yurman Express, in Harrisonburg and was driving to Batavia to pick up dairy products when at 8:37 p.m. a Le Roy police officer attempted to stop his tractor-trailer for speeding through the village.
When he was uncooperative with the first officer, the officer called for backup. When the second officer arrived, both officers approached the cab of the truck, each getting onto the running boards on both the driver's and passenger's side of the vehicle.
Le Roy Chief Chris Hayward said the officer on the passenger side observed a handgun in the vehicle.
One of the officers stepped down from the truck and at that point, Blessed began to drive off. The other officer was able to safely jump from the moving vehicle.
As he fled, Blessed rammed his truck into a Sheriff's patrol vehicle that had responded as backup for the Le Roy officers. He headed westbound on Route 5 toward Batavia. Batavia PD was alerted and officers responded to the city line but before Blessed reached Batavia, at some point after passing through Stafford at a high rate of speed, he managed to turn his truck around.
Sheriff Bill Sheron said he hadn't yet spoken with the officers involved, so it wasn't clear to him how the trucker managed to execute a U-turn on Route 5.
"I think they were quite amazed, too, that he was able to maneuver the vehicle the way he did," Sheron said.
Now eastbound, when Blessed returned to the Village of Le Roy, he proceeded south on Route 19 toward Pavilion. Sheriff's deputies attempted to stop the truck at the county line with spike strips. Blessed continued south through Wyoming County to Route 63 in Livingston County near Geneseo. Livingston County deputies also tried to deploy spike strips to no avail.
In Livingston County, Blessed started taking shots at police officers.
At one point, Sheriff Dougherty pulled up along the passenger side of the cab of the truck and Blessed fired rounds in his direction. Neither the patrol vehicle nor Dougherty was struck.
"This isn't a common type of situation where you not only have a heavy, heavy vehicle that is near impossible to stop but also the person then taking shots at cops," Dougherty said. "So it was a stressful, intense incident."
Once the vehicle was stopped, the gun battle continued. Sheron said at least one of his deputies fired shots at Blessed.
The official cause of death for Blessed has not been determined but Dougherty said he sustained multiple gunshot wounds.
On his website, Blessed wrote in February 2018:
This is Joshua Blessed the man of Yahweh, for the spirit of אליהו /EliYahu ( My El is Yahweh), is upon me!
As of February 12. 2018, I received from heaven a new task; “go, begin recruiting for a heavenly hosts/army,..”
My brother, the king of heaven Yahweh of hosts said to me, “…the civil war is coming and many shall die and descended to hell for the fruits of their life,…”
Here is my confession; As for me, for many years I was blind /slave of “the Beast”,… but now my spirit is revived by my Redeemer Yahweh of hosts, and His holy spirit is upon me and causes me > love Yahweh unto death, for He took away the fear of death of me,…It is why now I seek to die as His warrior for His great name > the king of heaven Yahweh of hosts!
The Batavian's news partner 13WHAM is reporting that Blessed had been banned from a militia site for reportedly being "self-destructive."
He posted multiple videos equating law enforcement with the devil and domestic terrorists. He also posted videos, speaking in what may be a Russian accent, describing dreams and visions he had.
His Facebook page indicates he was banned by the network for violating community standards in April, a ban that was extended to June 16. His offending posts were described as bullying.
Dougherty said investigators are looking into Blessed's social media posts in an attempt to work up a full profile of the man.
"(Among the) things that we're looking at: How extreme is he?" Dougherty said. "What other encounters has he had with police? What led to this yesterday? Again, there are so many unknowns that we can't interview him on. So these are things that we have to put together. And this is what police agencies do. We put together a timeline and try and get the best answers possible to conclude our investigation."
Dougherty praised the professional response of members of law enforcement from the multiple agencies who participated in the incident.
"Members from various agencies put their life on the line trying to warn traffic ahead, blocked the roadways, get everybody removed all the while knowing that he's popping shots," Dougherty said. "I can only tell you that it is simply unbelievable that nobody was injured."'
UPDATE 6:50 p.m.: An editor with the Harrisonburg Daily-News Record contacted the Sheriff there about Blessed and says the Sheriff told him his office never had any encounters with Blessed, at least nothing serious. Our news partner 13WHAM reports Blessed had a wife and two children.
Video provided by our news partner 13WHAM.