Assault rifles, IEDs found during investigation into tractor-trailer chase suspect

Published: Jun. 30, 2020 at 4:42 PM EDT
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Geneseo, N.Y. (WHAM) — Livingston County Sheriff Tom Dougherty says the suspect in a tractor-trailer chase that spanned multiple counties last month likely wasn’t planning anything that specific night, and the incident was triggered by a traffic stop that night.

However, items recovered during the investigation that followed the chase leads him to believe the suspect had been planning something bigger.

A search of Joshua Blessed’s personal vehicle and a residence in Virginia turned up 14 improvised explosive devices, two AK-47s - one with a thermal scope - a sniper rifle, thousands of rounds of ammunition, and more than $48,000 in cash.

During a news conference Tuesday, more than a month after the pursuit, law enforcement officials provided an update on the investigation into the May 27 incident, during which Blessed was fatally shot by law enforcement.

Deputies say Joshua Blessed, 58, of Virginia, was pulled over during a traffic stop in LeRoy on May 27. During the stop, Blessed pulled his tractor-trailer away, sparking a multi-county pursuit with Blessed firing at officers and crashing into vehicles.

The pursuit lasted about an hour and 15 minutes, ending with Blessed going off-road on Route 20A in Geneseo following an exchange of gunfire with law enforcement. Dougherty said Blessed had been shot four times, three times in the hip and once in the head. None of the gunshots were self-inflicted.

In all, deputies say Blessed fired at least 24 rounds from a 9mm Glock - however they believe the number of rounds fired is actually closer to 29. Seventeen-round magazines were recovered from the tractor-trailer.

Blessed first fired at deputies near the Quicklee's on Route 20A, hitting an unmarked Livingston County Sheriff's Office nine times. He would go on to fire at and hit an LCSO marked car, Genesee County Sheriff's Office cars and a LeRoy Police car over the course of the pursuit.

Deputies say seven members of law enforcement, five from the Livingston County Sheriff’s Office and two from the Genesee County Sheriff’s Office, returned fire over the course of the incident. They say 129 rounds were fired over during the 75-minute pursuit, with at least 91 rounds striking the tractor-trailer.

There were no injuries to police or civilians.

According to deputies, Blessed's birth name was Sergia Journev. He had been banned from various social media sites. Deputies say his social media presence included anti-police views.

However, Dougherty believes there are no connections between Blessed's actions and recent national tensions related to police. He believes Blessed chose to escalate the incident following the initial traffic stop.

Following the incident, law enforcement - including FBI agents - investigated what led up to the incident. That included investigating Blessed 's personal vehicle that he drove to work.

In that vehicle, three IED pipe bombs, an AK-47, magazines for a 9mm Glock handgun and nearly $18,000 in cash were found.

Days after the pursuit, a Virginia resident contacted law enforcement to say they had been renting Blessed a room for an extended period of time. A search of that room turned up 11 more IEDs, an AK-47 with a thermal scope, a .50 caliber rifle, thousands of dollars' worth of ammunition and manuals related to building IEDs and avoiding police.

While Dougherty believes the incident last month was impromptu in nature, he adds it appears Blessed was working toward something more threatening.

"I truly believe that, this day, Blessed did not plan for a major attack on law enforcement," said Dougherty. "Again, I think it was this traffic stop that set him off and eventually led to all the different things along the path of this pursuit, including him shooting at us and us shooting at him. That doesn't mean that I don't think he had a plan in the future. Based on what was recovered in his vehicle, and based on what was recovered in his bedroom, I do believe that he certainly had a plan for the future."

"What that plan was, I don't have that information," he continued, "but I do know that our office and all the members of law enforcement behind me, that partnership most likely prevented something much larger in the future."

The rig involved in the incident had been owned by Virginia-based Yurman Express. The owner told 13WHAM Blessed was scheduled to pick up dairy products in Batavia, but he had lost contact with the driver Wednesday night and did not know what happened.

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