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Hero Down: Simpson County Sheriff’s Deputy James Blair Murdered By Gunman

Mendenhall, MS – Simpson County Sheriff’s Office (SCSO) Deputy James Blair died in the line of duty on Friday after he was fatally shot by a subject he was transporting for a psychological evaluation.

The 77-year-old deputy was escorting 22-year-old Steven Joaquin Blackwell from Region 8 Mental Health Services where he was on an involuntary psychiatric hold, according to WAPT.

After Blackwell completed his evaluation at a facility in Mendenhall at approximately 3:30 p.m., Deputy Blair escorted him back to a sheriff’s office vehicle for transport, the Clarion Ledger reported.

As Deputy Blair was placing Blackwell into the vehicle, Blackwell allegedly attacked him, grabbed his duty weapon, and fatally shot him.

Deputy Blair was airlifted to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead, WAPT reported.

Blackwell fled the scene on foot, kicking off a manhunt that resulted in his arrest at approximately 2 p.m. on Saturday.

He has since been charged with capital murder of an officer, WAPT reported.

Deputy Blair devoted over 50 years of his life to his law enforcement career, according to the Officer Down Memorial Page.

In addition to his work as a deputy, he also served as a school resource officer at Simpson Central School, WAPT reported.

“He loved the kids,” Simpson Central School Secretary Manita Barnes told the news outlet. “It has been heartbreaking.”

Barnes said that many students have been struggling in the wake of Deputy Blair’s murder.

“From kindergarten through 8th grade, Mr. Blair was there,” she told WAPT. “They love Mr. Blair. There wasn’t a child Mr. Blair did not come into contact with and they knew him as ‘Paw Paw Blair.'”

Deputy Blair continued to serve his community into his golden years in order to provide for his grandsons, who he and his wife have been raising since their mother passed away, according to WBLT.

“Yesterday, the Simpson County Sheriff’s Office experienced a tragedy that every law enforcement agency prays never happens,” the SCSO said in a Facebook post on Saturday. “Thank you for all the prayers during these last two days and we ask that you continue to pray for the Blair family and our county as whole.”

“We have lost a true public servant and a great man,” the sheriff’s office said.

Deputy Blair will be laid to rest on Wednesday, according to his department.

Our thoughts and prayers are with the family of Simpson County Sheriff’s Office Deputy James Blair, both blood and blue. Thank you for your service.

Deputy James Blair, your life mattered.

Written by
Holly Matkin

Holly is a former probation and parole officer who is married to a sheriff’s deputy. She is a regular contributor to Signature Montana magazine, and has written feature articles for Distinctly Montana magazine.

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Written by Holly Matkin


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