A Johnstown police officer was fired for concocting details of a high-speed chase on Interstate 25 that violated his department’s policy against vehicle pursuits of nonviolent suspects, newly released records show.
Jacob Blackburn was fired March 2 after police supervisors determined that he falsely claimed that the driver of a stolen Chevrolet Silverado swerved and tried to hit his patrol car on the morning of Dec. 25, according to a recently released disciplinary report.
Blackburn and another officer separately gave chase on I-25, pursuing the pickup at speeds up to 110 mph from Johnstown, a small town southeast of Fort Collins, to Frederick, 20 miles away. The Silverado was later found abandoned on the side of a road, and then returned to its owner.
Police were unable to identify the driver, a police report shows.
Blackburn reported the driver’s alleged attempt to hit him as an aggravated assault on an officer, a felony that would have cleared Blackburn to initiate a chase under departmental policy, police said.
Body-worn camera footage, however, showed no evidence that the driver swerved toward Blackburn, and there was no mention of the incident in dispatch notes or radio calls, according to internal affairs documents obtained last week by The Colorado Sun.
An internal affairs investigation concluded that Blackburn fabricated the alleged attack after a supervisor raised questions about the basis for the pursuit.
Blackburn’s supervisors ultimately determined that he violated the department’s car pursuit policy and standards of conduct, leading to his firing, according to a report signed by the town’s police chief and town manager. Blackburn had worked in the department since October 2016.
Blackburn couldn’t be reached for comment. He denied to police internal affairs investigators that he had fabricated any details of his account.
The city’s spokesperson declined to comment on Blackburn’s departure.
The Weld County District Attorney’s Office reviewed the allegations against Blackburn and determined that his actions “were not criminal,” according to office spokeswoman Krista Henery.
However, the District Attorney’s Office filed a credibility report against Blackburn, citing a “crime or policy violation involving dishonesty,” according to Colorado’s Peace Officers Standards and Training’s public database, which documents the certification and training of all law enforcement officers across the state.
Under Johnstown police policy, officers are authorized to chase a car only if the driver is suspected of a violent felony or if the officer believes the person must be stopped to protect the general public.
According to the disciplinary report, Blackburn initially told a sergeant that he gave chase because the vehicle was stolen, the Colorado State Patrol was unavailable to assist and that there was light traffic.
After Blackburn was asked by his sergeant about the violent felony that would authorize a car chase, Blackburn revised his account, reporting that the driver of the stolen vehicle swerved into his lane, attempting to hit him, and that Blackburn had to move to avoid being hit.
His initial report was labeled as a stolen vehicle and later revised as an aggravated assault on a police officer, according to the disciplinary report.
Blackburn stood by his account under questioning by internal affairs investigators, claiming the driver tried to “play chicken” by driving into his lane, which he called a violent act that warranted a chase, documents show. He said he initially did not include details about the driver swerving into his lane because it was his first draft, according to the report.
Another officer who also chased the driver in a separate patrol car said he believed the reason he and Blackburn initiated the chase was because the car was reported stolen. He also said he did not feel the speeds they both reached were reasonable.
Documents show that Blackburn was previously reprimanded by supervisors for posting “abrasive remarks” about women on Facebook in May 2018.
In a Facebook group, Blackburn posted: “This is how you know women, specifically housewives, are sitting around in need of a life: incessant henpecking and complaining on Facebook town pages. … Tip of the day ladies: no one cares, and you are useless,” a disciplinary report stated.
Another post on his page has a photo of him in a Johnstown police uniform posing in front of a monster truck.
Several commanders and the police chief found that Blackburn violated the department’s social media policy that prohibits officers from making public statements that would damage the department’s reputation, according to a document signed in June 2018.
He received verbal counseling for violating the same policy in February 2017, the records show. No further details were provided.
Blackburn was recognized by the department as “Officer of the Year” in 2019 for “his positive community involvement with kids” and for his “hard work and dedication securing grant funding” for the department’s firearms range, according to a January 2020 memorandum.
Blackburn remains licensed to be an officer in Colorado.
Under Colorado law, police can lose their certifications if convicted of a felony or certain misdemeanors, including abuse of public records and false reporting to authorities.
A credibility report could lead to an officer losing their certification, if the officer knowingly made an untruthful statement on an official criminal justice record, testifying under oath, during an internal affairs investigation or disciplinary process, according to Colorado’s Peace Officer Standards and Training website.
Johnstown Police Department notified the Peace Officer Standards and Training board March 31 about Blackburn’s actions, according to a spokesman for the Colorado Attorney General’s Office. Blackburn may present his case at a hearing. If there is enough evidence to proceed, a recommendation will be made to the POST board to revoke his certification.