Sheriff says slain Mississippi deputy was ‘true public servant’

Published 7:21 am Thursday, June 18, 2020

A Mississippi deputy sheriff who was shot to death on the job had a lifelong commitment to public safety, his boss said Wednesday as hundreds of people gathered for the deputy’s funeral.

Simpson County deputy James Blair, 77, was killed Friday while taking a man to a mental health facility under a court order.

“We have lost a true public servant and a great man,” Sheriff Paul Mullins said, according to the Clarion Ledger. “He was as bold like a lion. He thought he was a lion. Actually, he thought he was still a 25-year-old.”

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Joaquin Blackwell, 22, of Magee, is charged with capital murder.

Blair was taking Blackwell to the Region 8 Mental Health Services building in Mendenhall on Friday. Investigators say they believe Blackwell overpowered Blair, took his gun, killed him and ran into the woods. Blackwell was caught the next day.

Blackwell is being held without bond, and WAPT-TV reported that his attorney declined to comment about the case.

Gov. Tate Reeves ordered flags lowered to half-staff Wednesday to honor Blackwell.

Blair previously worked in the justice and circuit courts in Simpson County. He also worked as a transport officer, served as a constable in Lincoln County and also worked in law enforcement in Pike County and Louisiana.

Mendenhall Mayor Todd Booth knew Blair and his family for years.

“He was just a super guy. He was always there for you and he was always joking,” Booth said. “And he loved his job.”