A Keezletown man shot and killed by New York police last week became radicalized over the years, had a deep hatred for government and police, and was likely planning a large-scale attack, according to several law enforcement sources.
Over the course of three days last week, police say, FBI agents found a stockpile of firearms and pipe bombs in Joshua Blessed’s car and at his home in Rockingham County.
Sources say police and federal agents were aware of the 58-year-old, also known as Sergei Jourev. The FBI and Virginia State Police sent out bulletins to local law enforcement about Blessed’s extreme views and potential danger to police.
Rockingham County Sheriff Bryan Hutcheson said deputies had minimal dealings with Blessed in the past, but nothing that was criminal. He said he’s thankful no one was injured in New York or locally.
“We found out a whole lot more about him. You’re talking about a true extremist,” Hutcheson said. “He was a dangerous individual. You’re talking about someone that was serious about committing violence … some kind of terrorism.”
Calls to the FBI were not returned.
The investigation into Blessed began shortly after 8:30 p.m. on May 27, when a Le Roy, N.Y., officer attempted a traffic stop on Blessed’s tractor-trailer on Route 5.
He took off while the officer was on the truck’s side rails. A pursuit ensued and it eventually included multiple police agencies.
He continued into Livingston County. Blessed opened fire, shooting four police vehicles. Police say one vehicle alone received 10 shots.
Police returned fire, striking him multiple times. Blessed died at the scene.
Officers say Blessed worked for Harrisonburg-based trucking company Yurman Express and was headed to New York to pick up dairy products.
During a press conference on May 28, Livingston County Sheriff Thomas J. Dougherty said no police officers or civilians were injured.
“I would call it a miracle. I have no clue how nobody was hurt. He fired a lot of shots, and we fired a lot of shots,” he said, adding that one bullet entered a police car and struck the driver’s side head rest. “If he wasn’t ducking, it would have been right to his head.”
Following the shootout, Dougherty said, investigators began to focus on figuring out why Blessed did what he did.
Joined by the FBI, multiple law enforcement agencies turned their attention to Blessed’s social media posts, which they say included troubling statements regarding his religious and anti-police views.
A YouTube video he posted showed snipers on roofs during a Second Amendment rally in Richmond on Jan. 20.
Under the video, Blessed posts: “The Civil War is coming to America and then Russian invasion on the east and Chinese on the west.”
The FBI then headed to the Shenandoah Valley, where they searched multiple properties.
They searched his former Augusta County home on Fadley Road in Weyers Cave, but nothing was found. Although he owns the property, police say, he didn’t live there.
Police say he rented a home in Keezletown.
During a search at that home, law enforcement said, they found more than a dozen explosive devices capable of being used in a large-scale attack.
The Virginia State Police blew up the devices at a remote farm in the county.