Activist calls Norfolk police officer who recently shot dead ‘beautiful human being’

NORFOLK, Va. — Bilal Muhammad of the Stop the Violence Team said he met Norfolk police officer Sean Blackwell only during the last solar eclipse in April. Muhammad watched it with his grandchildren in Ocean View.

“We had these sunglasses on, trying to look up, get ready for the eclipse. And look who pulled up,” Muhammad said. “Officer Blackwell stopped and said hi to us, hugged us all. Our grandchildren asked if he could look up at the eclipse with them.”

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But it didn’t end with Muhammad’s family.

Muhammad said Officer Blackwell, 57, continued to help others put on glasses so they could see the eclipse.

“We’ve just started talking about the community’s concerns,” Muhammad said.

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Officer Blackwell also offered his condolences to Muhammad’s family following the death of his son, Ali.

Muhammad said Blackwell has since actively supported the crime-reduction efforts of the group Stop the Violence.

“A beautiful, beautiful man,” Muhammad said. “A great future leader. A people person.”

Jay Greene/WTKR News 3

Bilal Muhammad

However, on July 6, Officer Blackwell, who has been on the force for 19 years, was wounded in an exchange of gunfire.

Blackwell and other officers responded to a child protective services call on Arcadia Street.

Bilal Muhammad

Officer Sean Blackwell

Police said when officers arrived at the scene, 23-year-old Cassandra Smith became aggressive toward officers.

That’s when 29-year-old Samuel Burton started shooting at officers, according to police.

The officers returned fire.

Burton and Officer Blackwell were shot multiple times.

Muhammad said he was shocked to learn of the incident. He said Blackwell’s conversations always focus on the community.

Bilal Muhammad

Officer Sean Blackwell

“This is a man who has dedicated his life to us, to the people in the community, trying to bring about a complete change in this internal problem that was going on,” Muhammad said. “He is a person who stands strong against violence. He is a shield in stopping the violence that is going on in the community.”

On July 10, Norfolk Police told News 3 that Officer Blackwell was still at home, recovering and not coming to work.

Burton faces two charges, including aggravated assault on a police officer, according to court records. At last check, he was still in the hospital with injuries that police initially described as life-threatening.

Cassandra Smith was arraigned on July 8 on four charges, including conspiracy to assault a police officer. She will appear in court again in September.