Interview with Trooper Coates’ killer and posting photos of cop killers
Over 20 years ago, Line of Duty produced one of its most enduring training
programs, “Interview with a Cop Killer”.
I went to South Carolina and interviewed Trooper Mark Coates’ murderer
Richard Blackburn at length. (PHOTO OF BLACKBURN. TAKE A FREEZE
FRAME FROM THE ACTUAL PROGRAM)
According to Google – at summer of 2018, it is still one of our most watched training programs ever.
It was, to my knowledge, the very first time a convicted cop killer had ever been
interviewed about his crime with the complete, horrific incident caught on cruiser
In fact, two cruiser cams.
He looked pathetic, lost and obese when the corrections officers brought him into
the interview room in a wheelchair at the (( )) where he was serving
a justifiable life-without-parole sentence. Believe me, there wasn’t a cop alive
in South Carolina who didn’t want to see Richard Blackburn executed long prior
to my interview with him.
Blackburn (to me) seemed to want to cooperate and did not dodge any question
I threw at him.
First, I asked what prompted him to ultimately explode in fury at Trooper Coates.
He said he initially felt put out, because Trooper Coates had picked his old
beater out for a speeding stop and yet, Blackburn claimed, there were other newer
model cars that had sped by faster than he was driving.
It’s an invaluable program, one that, I feel, truly tried to get into the psyche of a
cop killer, and, apparently, over the years many law enforcement officials agree,
because it has been watched and studied so very often. Still is.
Which gets me to my point.
When a Florence, SC officer was shot to death and several other cops were also
wounded earlier this week, I tried to stay on top of it and post every breaking
That included ultimately posting a photo of the officer’s alleged killer.
Plenty of you responded negatively and implored me to delete the subject’s photo.
You had a damned good reason, too. He’d just killed a great veteran officer and
seriously wounded several others. Why give him a scintilla of publicity?
I hear you, I do.
However, as a journalist who actually tries to provide as much fact as I can in a
major story, this man’s photo and background seemed to be critical to me.
Without his heinous actions, there would have been no story.
If the Chicago Tribune over 50 years ago didn’t publish the photo and background
of Richard Speck next to the student nurses he’d methodically murdered, it would have
been an unspeakable oversight.
When a cop is slain ITLOD, don’t you think it’s absolutely imperative to show his (or her)
photo and as much of his (or her) background humanly possible?
Don’t you want to try to learn from absolutely any aspect of the killer’s personality, background,
motive, or reasoning?
That, of course, includes his photograph or, perhaps, multiple photographs which can, often,
supplement just exactly who is this and why he did what he did.
20 years ago, if I’d provided only an audio interview with Richard Blackburn, wouldn’t you have
much rather SEEN this man, watched his expressions, studied his mannerisms, learned from
his physical machinations?
I absolutely think so.
Personally, I think it’s TRULY reprehensible when a media outlet does NOT provide photos and
as much descriptive information as possible about a cop shooter or cop killer.
I see that more and more often when the suspect is a minority, and I hate to say that, but it’s
I choose the high ground and will always give you every iota of information on a cop killer,
To me, we must learn from tragedy, and that should include learning all we can about the
perpetrators of life’s most horrific, horrendous events.
P.S. FYI, here’s a preview link to our interview with Richard Blackburn:
If you’re interested in the complete interview, please visit our online store at www.lineofduty.com,
or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call 1(800)462-5232.
Always in officer safety,
In the Line of Duty