|Born||August 4, 1951|
|Died||December 20, 1974|
Wendel Sylvester Blackwell (1951-1974) was a 23-year-old black man who was stopped by Escambia County Sheriff's Deputy Doug Raines and subsequently shot in the head and killed on December 20, 1974. His death sparked a wave of protest in the black community, culminating in a demonstration on February 24, 1975 in which nearly 50 people were arrested, including civil rights leaders Revs. H. K. Matthews, B. J. Brooks and Otha Leverette.
On the night of December 20, 1974, Blackwell was pulled over by Deputy Raines following a high-speed pursuit. According to Raines, Blackwell had acted strangely, at first reluctant to comply and then obscuring part of his body. When Raines saw that he possessed a firearm, he shot him in the head at 10:45pm. Blackwell was pronounced dead at the hospital.
The shooting was met with outrage in the black community. Rev. B. J. Brooks called the shooting "murder" and asked Escambia County Sheriff Royal Untreiner to suspend Deputy Raines until a complete independent investigation could be made. One witness near the shooting said she thought Blackwell had been shot while still in the car, from the amount of blood inside the vehicle.
Although the police had confiscated a .22 Derringer firearm from Blackwell's body, some were suspicious it had been planted. "We have reports from reliable sources that say Blackwell did not have a gun," said Brooks. "He had a gun, but his mother said it was in her possession."
According to sheriff's officials, the gun was owned by Eddie B. Lanier, who had sold it on the day of the shooting to LeRoy Beasley, who in turn gave it to Blackwell around 6:30pm "and asked him to keep it for him."
Blackwell's death was deemed a justifiable homicide by officials, and Raines was not disciplined.
- Obituary. Pensacola Journal, December 25, 1974.
- "NAACP to Probe Shooting, Asks Deputy's Suspension." Pensacola Journal, December 24, 1974.
- "Golden Asks Blacks to Help Him." Pensacola Journal, December 28, 1974.