His name is Jimmy Blackwell and he is variously reported as 50 or 51 years old.
I don't know all the details. In particular, I don't know the race of the cop who administered the beating, but his name is Bobby C. Mitchell, age 26. The Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI) has not released any more info, "pending investigation"--but Blackwell is officially charged with felony obstruction and terrorist threats.
This is just so disturbing and horrific. The Greenville News still doesn't have anything on their website about it, possibly because it is considered Georgia news. Fox Carolina reported that Blackwell is in the ICU here in Greenville, has already lost one eye and may lose the other (which is badly damaged also). Apparently, Blackwell has lost all of his sight.
If Blackwell had not needed surgery here, would local TV news have even covered this event?
Full slide show here, you decide for yourself. (Warning, extremely graphic and disturbing.) And this is from the Hartwell Sun:
Patrol officer Bobby C. Mitchell said that he approached 51-year-old Jimmy Blackwell on Savannah Street in Hartwell, Ga. On Monday morning after they observed suspicious behavior. Mitchell said after he asked Blackwell for identification, Blackwell fought with him.
Blackwell and the 26-year-old officer were injured during the fight. Mitchell was treated and released.
Blackwell was seriously injured during the altercation. His nephew, James Oglesby, told WYFF News 4 that his uncle will have surgery on Wednesday to remove his eye.
Mitchell is on paid administrative leave pending the outcome of the investigation.
Blackwell’s family says that they think the officer used excessive force.
"You look at the pictures. You can tell they beat him with something. Hands don't do damage like that," said Blackwell's daughter, Jamiya Blackwell.
His other daughter, Keesha Blackwell, said, “He has gashes all over his head. His eyeball looked like it was out of the socket. He was covered with blood. I thought he was going to die. It was like he was struggling breathing.”
Hartwell man beaten by police
By Megan E. Davis
Staff writer, HARTWELL SUN
February 18, 2009
People need to be asking LOTS of questions. LOTS OF THEM.
The Georgia Bureau of Investigation launched an inquiry into an altercation between a Hartwell police officer and a resident of the Rome community.
The struggle ensued after Jimmy Lee Blackwell, 50, of 204 Savannah St., refused to comply when Officer Robert Mitchell asked him for identification around 1:30 a.m. Feb. 16, according to Police Chief Cecil Reno.
Mitchell approached Blackwell because he was staggering as he walked down Savannah Street.
Reno said Mitchell progressed through the levels of engagement police officers are taught to use while dealing with a suspect.
Blackwell fought back as Mitchell attempted to control him with his hands and sprayed him with pepper spray before using his baton.
GBI Special Agent Jim Fullington said a Hartwell employee, who has not been publicly identified, viewed the incident from a patrol car.
He was the only witness to the altercation.
Blackwell was transported to Hart County Hospital with head injuries and later was transferred to Greenville Memorial Hospital.
According to family members, Blackwell's left eye was removed and the fate of his right eye was uncertain as of press time.
Mitchell received a concussion in the altercation and was treated at Hart County Hospital.
He has been placed on administrative leave with pay while the incident is investigated.
Blackwell faces felony charges from the Hartwell Police Department of obstruction of an officer and making terroristic threats.
Fullington said the GBI began looking into the incident after receiving a request from Reno around 2 a.m.
"It's our policy to contact the GBI when any allegations are raised against an officer," he said.
Hartwell Mayor Matt Beasley said he was out of town at the time of the incident and did not learn about it until a resident contacted him Monday night.
"I am just now gathering information this morning," Beasley said Wednesday. "I want to ensure this community that a full investigation will be conducted, not only by the GBI, but also as Mayor, I will look into it."
Family members said police used excessive force against Blackwell in the altercation.
"They tried to kill him," Blackwell's daughter, Jamiya Blackwell, said.
Vickie Barnes, a friend of the family, said police and the ambulance crew stopped at Savannah Street Market for 15 minutes before transporting Blackwell to the hospital.
According to Hart County EMS Director Terrell Partain, the ambulance crew arrived at the hospital with Blackwell 21 minutes after a call for the ambulance was received by the EMS office.
Partain said provisions of Georgia law in place to protect patient privacy prevented him from commenting further.
Gloria Morrison, Blackwell's sister, said family members were not allowed to see him or ask about his condition until Feb. 17.
"They told my other sister we were asking too many questions," Jamiya said.
Jamiya said officers also told her family they would be arrested if they did not leave the hospital.
Blackwell has a record of arrest with the department for charges of habitual violator, obstruction of an officer and simple battery.
He has also been arrested by the Hart County Sheriff's Office on two occasions for charges of theft by taking.
Staff writer Antonia Robinson contributed to this article.
Hartwell, Georgia only has 4188 citizens, total. City Hall and the Police Department are apparently all in the same building:
Hartwell Police Department
700 East Howell St.
Phone: (706) 376-4756
Fax: (706) 376-6263
You could let them know the story has now officially LEFT the south and they can't keep it quiet now. (And God bless the internet.)
My prayers and novenas are with Mr. Blackwell and his family.
EDIT/UPDATE: A community meeting is scheduled for 6 pm Friday at Flat Rock CME Church at 5595 Cokesbury Highway in Hartwell. A co-worker tells me that Mitchell is white, but no photos of him have yet been released. Since Blackwell's family is taking this case to the NAACP, they are obviously viewing this as a racial incident. Lots of secrecy surrounding this event; I am the major source getting all the Google hits on this story right now, and I still don't know all of the facts.
Comments on various of the news websites from people who claim to know the involved parties, also say that Mitchell is white.
In addition, Jimmy Lee Blackwell has a police record and has previously been in prison. News agencies and law enforcement are steadily leaking this kind of prejudicial information about Blackwell, while still protecting Mitchell's anonymity and refusing to divulge the precise reason(s) Blackwell was stopped in the first place. (What does "suspicious behavior" mean, exactly?)
UPDATE 2: The above accounts are in conflict with the facts given by Blackwell's family, that there were several police officers, not just one.