GENESEO - Five dispatchers with the Livingston County Sheriff’s Office recently received Dispatcher of the Year awards from the New York State Sheriff’s Association for their actions on the night of May 27, 2020, when an out of control trucker took law enforcement on a multi-county chase.
“This is teamwork right here that night,” said Yates County Sheriff Ron Spike, who also chairs the board of directors of the New York State Sheriff’s Institute, an affiliate organization. “We congratulate you all for a great job that night.”
Honored at the Livingston County Board of Supervisors’ June 9 meeting were dispatchers Matt Snyder, Meaghan Tinelli, Melissa Mumm, Gary Macauley and Rich Alexander.
“It is my honor to recognize five emergency communicators,” said Spike.
A routine traffic stop
For law enforcement involved in the chase, May 27 was a night that began with a routine traffic stop that quickly went out of control.
“I was never in the military and I don’t know what war feels like but this is about the closest thing that I can think it felt like,” said Livingston County Sheriff Thomas J. Dougherty. “It was chaos, bullets flying and it was everything that a Hollywood Die Hard movie would entail. Miraculously, not one innocent civilian was hurt. Not one officer, deputy or trooper. I commend all of the members for their training, knowledge, their experience and they just did an incredible job.”
A tractor trailer driven by Joshua Blessed was stopped at 8:37 p.m. May 27 for speeding in the village of Le Roy, Genesee County. During the stop, Blessed refused to follow directions from law enforcement and pulled away, smashing into Le Roy Police and Genesee County Sheriff’s patrol cars - and beginning what would be a multi-county chase in which gunfire was exchanged multiple times and four police cars were rammed and four others struck by bullets.
From Le Roy, the tractor-trailer continued west to Batavia before doing a U-turn and driving back toward Le Roy, where it turned onto Route 19 and then Route 63 through Pavilion and Covington, Wyoming County, before entering Livingston County.
The pursuit reached speeds of 70 mph as it crossed Route 36 in Greigsville, where the posted speed limit is 30 mph. The chase entered the village of Geneseo from the north, via Route 63, before continuing east, via Route 20A, to Exit 8 of Interstate 390. In Geneseo, Blessed - later found to be an “anti-police extremist” - began firing shots at police. He fired at least 24 rounds, striking four police cars with gunfire. A Livingston County Sheriff’s car was hit with nine bullets and another bullet pierced the windshield of a patrol car, missing the driver’s head by inches. After traveling a short distance on Interstate 390, the truck crossed the median and returned north toward Geneseo and Exit 8 where it turned back onto Route 20A, continuing west toward the village of Geneseo. As the tractor-trailer neared Morgan View Road, deputies fired on the truck, which went off the road and into a field.
Blessed suffered multiple gunshot wounds and was pronounced dead at the scene. The pursuit ended shortly before 10 p.m. - about 75 minutes and 46 miles after it started.
It was a dramatic scene and Spike said he can only imagine what it must have been like for dispatchers that night.
“They must know how to multi-task and not everyone can do that job. They must know how to take inbound calls, outbound calls, they must know how to do two or three things at a time,” he said. “I can only imagine that night what it was like in that communications room when all of this was going on.”
The investigation into Blessed and what may have prompted him to flee from and fire on law enforcement that night continued for a month after the incident and included FBI raids on Blessed’s private vehicle and a room he rented in Virginia. Evidence seized in those raids included more than a dozen improvised explosive devices, thousands of dollars’ worth of ammunition, firearms - including two AK-47s, a 50-caliber rifle and a .223 caliber sniper rifle - tens of thousands of dollars in cash and instructional manuals on how to build bombs and avoid detection by law enforcement. The discoveries led investigators to believe Blessed was “planning a larger, more threatening attack.”
Even a year later, Dougherty said his office is available to help anyone having post traumatic stress reactions from the incident.
“It might be nightmares... it might be a flashback, it might be a smell, a sound or it could be a white semi truck passing,” he said.