GENESEO, N.Y. — A suspect identified as Joshua Blessed, aka Sergei Jourev, a 58-year-old truck driver for Yurman Express LLC of Harrisonburg, Virginia, led New York law-enforcement officials on a chase that spanned three counties and lasted more than an hour. The chase ended when Blessed was fatally shot. It is not yet known whether the gunshot that killed Blessed was self-inflicted or was fired by law enforcement.
During the incident, the suspect allegedly rammed police cars, attempted to strike oncoming vehicles and repeatedly fired at police officers and vehicles.
In a press conference Thursday afternoon (May 28), Livingston County Sheriff Tom Dougherty described the event as “a stressful, intense incident” and provided a preliminary timeline of the events. The chase began about 8:37 p.m. Wednesday, May 27, in LeRoy, New York, when police officers pulled over a tractor-trailer for a speeding violation, and ended more than an hour later at 9:58 p.m. in Geneseo, New York, according to Dougherty.
LeRoy Police Chief Chris Hayward said the suspect refused to interact with officers at the time of the initial traffic stop, refusing to roll down the truck window or provide requested documentation, such as his driver’s license, registration and insurance information. While the officers were attempting to verify the truck’s license plates, Hayward said, Blessed drove away from the scene with an officer still standing on the truck’s side rail. The officer was unharmed; however, the suspect rammed two police vehicles at the scene, Hayward said.
Shortly after 9 p.m., the truck entered Livingston County after driving through a set of stop sticks set by the Genesee County Sheriff’s Department and then drove through a second set of stop sticks placed by the Livingston County Sheriff’s Department. Dougherty’s team then joined the pursuit. During the chase, the driver’s speed varied from high to “really slow,” with the suspect occasionally stopping, Dougherty said. During the chase, the truck made multiple U-turns, doubling back on its route, and “aggressively” taking curves, “with the operator having no regard for human life,” he continued.
The chase ended when the tractor-trailer veered off Route 20A and into a field in Geneseo; the suspect was declared dead at the scene. Dougherty said the body had multiple gunshot wounds and that the medical examiner’s office is working to determine whether the fatal shot was self-inflicted. Officers reported that a handgun was on Blessed at the scene and that investigators are searching the truck for additional evidence.
“He fired a lot of shots and we fired a lot of shots,” Dougherty said. “He fired a lot of shots throughout the pursuit and we fired a lot of shots at the conclusion.”
During the chase, four law-enforcement vehicles were struck by gunfire. One vehicle was hit 10 times. A bullet went through the windshield of another vehicle, passing over the headrest and lodging in the glass between the front and back seats, according to Dougherty.
“I believe if he wasn’t ducking, then (the bullet) would have been right to (the officer’s) head,” he said.
“I can’t put into words what the incident was like. ‘Challenging’ is an understatement,’” he continued. “You have a heavy, heavy vehicle with a man who wants to do carnage. He’s actively trying to kill our deputies and he’s got a big vehicle to move around that’s nearly impossible to stop, aside from having a tank.”
Other than the suspect, no injuries were reported among law-enforcement officers and civilian bystanders, Dougherty said.
“I would call it a miracle, I honestly would. God’s blessing,” he said. “I have no clue how nobody was hurt —so many shots at law enforcement, the size of his vehicle, his driving, the civilians around.”
Dougherty expressed gratitude to the law-enforcement agencies involved in the chase, which included the Livingston County Sheriff’s Office, the Genesee County Sheriff’s Office, the LeRoy Police Department, the Geneseo Police Department and the New York State Police, as well as area fire departments, EMS teams, the district attorney’s office and others.
Officials say they do not yet have a motive for Blessed’s actions in allegedly fleeing what should have been a routine traffic stop and attempting to injure law-enforcement officers. Dougherty said there are many questions to be answered.
“What was the last 24 hours of his life like? Why today? We’re trying to get those answers,” he said.
The owner of Yurman Trucking spoke to 13WHAM News, an ABC affiliate in Rochester, New York, Wednesday night, saying that the driver was on his way to pick up dairy products in Batavia, New York, adding that he lost contact with Blessed and was not sure what happened.
Linda Garner-Bunch has been in publishing for more than 30 years. You name it, Linda has written about it. She has served as an editor for a group of national do-it-yourself publications and has coordinated the real estate section of Arkansas’ only statewide newspaper, in addition to working on a variety of niche publications ranging from bridal magazines to high-school sports previews and everything in between. She is also an experienced photographer and copy editor who enjoys telling the stories of the “Knights of the Highway,” as she calls our nation’s truck drivers.