Police: Intoxicated man shot, killed reaching for gun

Man shot had previous arrests for drugs, grand theft

By Ethan Calloway - Anchor/reporter , Vic Micolucci - Reporter, anchor , Destiny McKeiver - Multi-media journalist , Allyson Henning - Reporter , News4Jax.com Staff

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Police on Saturday identified a man they said was intoxicated and had a gun when he was shot and killed by a responding officer Friday afternoon outside a Paxon-area sandwich shop.

On Friday, family identified the man killed as Daniel Edward Blyler, 44. Police later confirmed Blyler's identity in a news conference.

According to Jacksonville Sheriff's Office Director Ron Lendvay, the manager of Vic's Sandwich Shop on North Edgewood Avenue, several blocks north of Commonwealth Avenue, called 911 just after noon to say a man was very intoxicated and his staff was concerned that the man was going to get in his truck and drive away, endangering motorists.

While police were on their way, the manager called back to say the man had a gun and was sitting in his truck in the parking lot.

"I appreciate the community helping to look out for us as we look out for them," Lendvay said.

Lendvay said officer Lemmuel K. Johnson parked next door and walked up to the truck, and as soon as he began to talk to Blyler, he reached for his waistband, where Johnson saw a pistol. Johnson fired 13 shots, killing Blyler.

"The officer identified himself as a police officer and attempted to talk to the man. The man responded by reaching toward his waistband, where the officer observed a handle of a firearm. When the man grabbed the handle of that firearm, the officer fired 13 rounds at him with his issued handgun," Lendvay said.

News4Jax crime and safety analyst Gil Smith said those moments are critical in the investigation.

"The only thing that's really important is the actual physical evidence in determining whether or not the shooting is justified or not," Smith said.

Lendvay said Blyler had a 9mm handgun with one round in the chamber and 11 rounds in its magazine.

Johnson, a 15-year JSO veteran, was not wearing a body camera, and has been placed on administrative leave, Lendvay said. The incident was Johnson's second officer-involved shooting. Lendvay did not give any details about Johnson's first officer-involved shooting.

Police said there is no surveillance video outside the restaurant but they have located several witnesses to the shooting, including three people who witnessed the man reaching for his gun.

"We heard gunshots -- about four or five shots -- and the first thing that crossed our mind was we hope nobody was shooting up the day care," area resident James Nicholas Sr. said.

UNCUT: JSO briefing on officer-involved shooting outside sandwich shop | JSO updates officer-involved shooting

Lendvay said it was fortunate the shooting didn't take place inside the restaurant but in an isolated part of the parking lot. He also thanked the restaurant staff for trying to stop the man from driving intoxicated and calling back so the responding officer would know that the man had a gun.

Eric Battle, who identified himself as the gunman's nephew, said it's his second relative shot by a police officer.

"Now we have my uncle who was taken off the street, again. Just, I guess, somebody just was, like, 'Hey. He's violent. I guess we're going to shoot him,'" Battle said. "I just feel like there's no compassion anymore. They're just shooting people, killing people -- for what?"

Battle described Blyler as a good man who worked for the family business.

"This is his traveling area. He constantly does deliveries for my grandfather with wood and shavings and stuff like that, so I don't understand," Battle said.

Battle said his uncle had a history with drugs and had visited a methadone clinic earlier in the day. He said he didn't deserve to die.

"I’m quite sure there’s other people that are acting the same way, so it’s not anything not normal," Battle said. "I thought officers were supposed to be able to know when somebody is messed up or when somebody is out of their mind, you know what I mean?"

Lendvay said Blyler had a 2009 drug arrest in Duval County and a 1999 arrest for grand theft in Nassau County. According to court records, the charges were dropped in both arrests. Police said Blyler was legally carrying the handgun up to the point where he reached for it when he was approached by law enforcement. 

"The background of Mr. Blyler or the police officer would really have no impact on the investigation," Smith said. "The only thing police will look at is what happened that day, the physical evidence at the scene and the witness information."

The Look at Me Grow Up Day Care Center next door to the sandwich shop parking lot was not involved in the shooting and was never locked down, police said. About three hours after the shooting, the children were removed from the daycare with police escorts and loaded onto a van to be picked up by their families at Palm Avenue Exceptional Child Center around the corner.

Dozens of marked police units and several detective cars and crime-scene vans are inside the police perimeter, including Edgewood Avenue, which was closed to traffic from Commonwealth Avenue to Norman E. Thagard Boulevard.

Keys Reeves, who lives in the area, said Friday's violence has her family on edge. She said her daughter was in school nearby during the shooting and is now too scared to come outside.

"I'm from Brooklyn, New York. We don't see any of this. Half the stuff that's going on, we don't see. We don't see the violence, this type of crime and I'm coming from Brooklyn," Reeves said. "This is something that's really affecting us. It's affecting us deeply. And as affected as we are by it, I'm pretty sure everyone else is as well."

Police said that parents and buses picking up children at schools in the Paxon or West Jacksonville neighborhoods were told to be aware of the road closures and plan accordingly. JTA said that Route 53 customers should be aware that bus stops might be missed and travel times might be affected because of the police activity closing the streets.

This was the fourth police-or federal agent-involved shooting in Jacksonville in the last 11 days.

It’s the eighth JSO-involved shooting this year. Seven of the suspects were killed. The eighth man committed suicide after he was shot.

"All too often we're encountering armed individuals who are willing to hang onto those firearms against police orders to drop them during law enforcement encounters. That makes this job extremely dangerous for these guys," Lendvay said. "Unfortunately, we're on a tough run for the last month or so -- both us and the federal agency that had an officer-involved incident earlier this week. Luckily, our guys are trained to take care of themselves and the public."

Lendvay said the medical examiner will send samples to toxicology to deter mine how intoxicated Blyler was.

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