June 10, 2021

Accused Simpson County cop killer pleads not guilty 2 days before anniversary of shooting

Therese Apel

Joaquin Blackwell is led from the courtroom after pleading not guilty in the 2020 shooting death of Deputy James Blair.

A man accused of killing a Simpson County Deputy two days less than a year ago pleaded not guilty in court in Bay Springs today.

Joaquin Blackwell, 22, is accused of overpowering Deputy James Blair and killing him with his service weapon on June 12, 2020. Blair had been transporting Blackwell to a mental evaluation when the incident occurred.

Blackwell then lead police on an overnight manhunt. He ultimately was found hiding not far from where he escaped.

After transporting Blackwell to Rankin County where he is being held on Thursday, Sheriff Paul Mullins said friends, coworkers, and relatives of Blair’s are waiting as the wheels of justice keep turning.

“We’re just going to go through the process and continue to build our case and once he gets his day in court, we’ll let our justice system go as it needs to go,” he said.

Blair is gone, and his absence is felt, but that big personality is still very much a part of operations at the sheriff’s department.

“He always came up here and was joking with everyone and trying to make everyone feel better,” Mullins said. “He always brightened up the room. We still think about him and talk about him every day.”

That was the gift he gave them — humor. It’s been part of the healing process ever since.

“The only thing we can do when we talk about him is laugh,” Mullins said. “That’s the only way you can keep moving forward.

Pending a mental evaluation, Blackwell faces trial on September 28, 2021. He will be held until then without bond.

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