Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Police Think Rampage Goal 'Suicide by Cop'

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Police Think Rampage Goal 'Suicide by Cop'

Article excerpt


The bullet ended Steven Blackwell's rampage but not his life.

Best anyone could piece together, he set out Tuesday evening to die.

During a high-speed burn through Clay County, he got the attention of authorities.

His plan, as they'd later find out: get them to blow him away.

He was nearly successful in a plot many know as "suicide by cop," a phenomenon in which a suicidal person preys on a law enforcement officer's duty to level deadly force in dangerous situations.

Greg DiFranza, a retired Jacksonville police officer who now teaches at the University of North Florida's Institute of Police Technology and Management, said no amount of training can prepare an officer to tell the difference between a good bluff and an actual threat.

"After the fact, you have a lifetime to think about the consequences, wondering why I'm the one who had to do this," he said.

Blackwell, 27, of Eastpoint, a town in Florida's Panhandle, had been dating an Orange Park woman for several months before he packed his things Tuesday and left her place looking for a bar, police said Wednesday.

Several hours later, the girlfriend, Rebecca L. Levy, 29, called 911 to report that Blackwell was tearing all over County Road 220 between 70 and 80 mph, possibly drunk. She said he chased her before running a red light and speeding into the distance.

"I'm just afraid he's going to kill somebody," Levy told a dispatcher, according to a recording of the conversation obtained by the Times-Union.

What he wanted, though, was for somebody to kill him, according to a Clay County Sheriff's Office report.

It said Levy's sister, Katrina M. Taylor, received a call from Blackwell in which he told her that he was planning to stop his vehicle in a police pursuit and pretend to have a gun.

"He was telling the police to shoot him and he was telling them he wanted to die," Orange Park Police Lt. …

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