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Published: Friday, 4/29/2011

Shot B.G. lawyer had history of mental illness

Police were asked to check on him before

BY JENNIFER FEEHAN
BLADE STAFF WRITER
A Bowling Green police officer stands outside an apartment building at 1608 Clough Street in Bowling Green, where Blackwell was shot. A Bowling Green police officer stands outside an apartment building at 1608 Clough Street in Bowling Green, where Blackwell was shot.
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BOWLING GREEN -- Just a month ago, local attorney Robert Blackwell came into the Bowling Green Police Department to report that something strange was going on at his parents' house. He said he thought they might be dead.

When police checked on Mary and Robert Blackwell, Sr., they found the couple at home and fine, but the parents expressed concern about their son, who, they said, had a history of mental illness. Not long after police left, Mrs. Blackwell called 911 to say that their son had turned violent, and she and her husband were scared.

On Wednesday, the younger Mr. Blackwell was dead -- shot inside his Clough Street apartment during a confrontation with police who were called there to check on his welfare.

Bowling Green Police Lt. Brad Biller confirmed Thursday that the two officers at the scene -- Patrolmen Darin Reinhart and Brian Crites -- both fired their 40-caliber pistols, though it is not yet known whose bullets struck Mr. Blackwell, 46. He also had a gun, though Lieutenant Biller said he did not know whether Mr. Blackwell had fired.

"It's my understanding that he pointed the gun at the officers who were there to check on his welfare," Lieutenant Biller said.

An autopsy was performed Thursday at the Lucas County Coroner's Office though Wood County Coroner Dr. Douglas W. Hess said Thursday night that he did not expect to have the results before this afternoon.

Agents with the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Identification and Investigation were processing the guns and other evidence from the scene as police interviewed witnesses, searched Mr. Blackwell's law office in the Huntington Bank Building on North Main Street, and interviewed the officers involved in the shooting.

Bowling Green Police Chief Brad Conner said both officers surrendered their weapons to Ohio bureau's agents at the scene and were taken off patrol duties and placed on administrative duties pending completion of the investigation. Officer Reinhart joined the department in December, 1996, Officer Crites in August, 1997.

"Every indication is the officers acted appropriately," Chief Conner said. "I have no reason to believe otherwise based upon both the statements of the various witnesses and the preliminary statements I've received from the officers."

According to Bowling Green police records, Officer Crites was dispatched to Mr. Blackwell's home at the Stadium View Apartments just before noon Wednesday when Jill Morehart of Findlay stopped at the police division and asked police to check on his safety. She has a 12-year-old daughter with Mr. Blackwell and had not been able to contact him.

In a recording of the dispatcher's call, Officer Crites confirmed he'd been at Mr. Blackwell's apartment April 19 to check his safety at Ms. Morehart's request and suggested the dispatcher call management at the complex. They had let police in with a key on the previous visit but did not find Mr. Blackwell at home.

"I believe management evicted him," Officer Crites told the dispatcher. "I thought they were giving him a three-day notice on the 21st, so my guess is he's gone."

He later called for another officer to accompany him, saying Mr. Blackwell had an air rifle in his apartment last week and he wanted backup "in case he's upgraded."

The two of them pounded on the door, announced their presence, and looked in windows, but got no response, police said. When management provided them with the key, they attempted to open the door but found a couch was pushed up against the door and a chain lock in place.

"The guy was not responding. They didn't know if he's laying there unconscious or what," Chief Conner said. "They're lucky he didn't try to fire when they were trying to move the couch or cut the chain. We're fortunate it didn't come out worse than it did."

When the two officers finally got inside, they saw Mr. Blackwell with a gun. Chief Conner said Mr. Blackwell was ordered to drop his gun several times, but instead he advanced on the officers and pointed his gun at them. They fired.

Asked whether Mr. Blackwell might have wanted police to shoot him -- a phenomenon known as suicide by cop -- Lieutenant Biller said it's possible.

"I believe it could have been. Was it? I can't say that," he said. "At this point, it could've been a suicide by self."

Ms. Morehart, who was at the scene when police entered the apartment, declined to comment.

Records indicate Mr. Blackwell graduated from Bowling Green State University in 1985 with a bachelor's degree in science and technical communications. He received a law degree from Ohio Northern University in Ada, Ohio, in 1988 and was admitted to the Ohio bar in 1989.

Bowling Green lawyer Andrew Schuman said Mr. Blackwell had rented an office down the hall from his in the Huntington Bank Building about six months ago.

"He once told me he had a statewide criminal practice and had offices in different places, including Findlay," Mr. Schuman recalled.

Mr. Blackwell's business card posted outside his office mentioned just the Bowling Green office. Clerks and bailiffs at the Wood County courthouse said they did not know him.

Mr. Schuman said Mr. Blackwell's daughter had brought him a fresh flower last week, but he was not at the office to receive it.

"It's kind of disturbing, the whole thing," he said. "I feel really bad for his daughter."

Contact Jennifer Feehan at: jfeehan@theblade.com or 419-724-6129.



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