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Teenager kills Miami pastor whose family had befriended him

MIAMI (BP)–Miami Baptists were stunned by the Dec. 26, 1999, shooting death of H. Keith Blakley, pastor of the city’s oldest Baptist church and a former employee of the Florida Baptist Convention.

Blakley, 47, pastor of Central Baptist Church, was shot at his home in Kendall, by John Erik Carter, 19, a former high school friend of Blakley’s daughter, Angela, 19. He died at 4 p.m. Dec. 27 after being taken off life support at Jackson Memorial Hospital.

According to the Miami Herald, Carter walked past Blakley in the front yard of the pastor’s home, entered the house and opened fire on Angela, his apparent target. She escaped the bullets and slipped out the back door, but her visiting grandparents, Frances and Billie Blakley, both 78, were wounded. They were reported to be recovering at the Jackson hospital.

Keith Blakley was hit when he rushed into the house after the first shots were fired. His wife, Theresa, 47, and younger children, Chelsea, 17, and Sean, 15, were not home at the time of the incident.

After the shootings, Carter reportedly went to the home of another former friend, Jonathan Scarboro Lott, 19, about four miles away. He allegedly shot and killed Lott, whose body was found by his family at about 5 p.m.

At 11:45 p.m., Carter opened fire on two uniformed corrections officers outside the Miami-Dade County Jail, injuring Kimberly Richardson, 37. At 8:15 the following morning, Carter’s body was found in the bathtub of a house under construction in Perrine, with an apparently self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head. His car was found less than two blocks away with an explosive device stashed inside.

The Miami newspaper said the alleged gunman was a gifted but disturbed youth who previously had been in trouble with police for car theft, burglary, resisting arrest, probation violation and firearms violations. He was under house arrest at the time of the Dec. 26 shooting spree.

The Blakley family had befriended Carter about three years ago and Keith and Theresa Blakley had attempted to counsel with him, the Herald noted. The family’s last contact with Carter had been about a year ago, when he had called for Angela, who declined Carter’s request to see him.

Theresa Blakley told the Herald she had no regrets about trying to help the troubled teen.

“I don’t regret having let any soul into the fold of our family,” the newspaper quoted her as saying. “It is our mandate from Christ to embrace every person and love them in the name of Jesus. That is what we are all about.”

Tim Willis, Baptist student ministries director at Clemson (S.C.) University and a longtime friend of Blakley, told approximately 1,000 people gathered Dec. 30 for the pastor’s funeral, “In the midst of a tragedy like this, there are many unanswered questions. Don’t let the bitterness cripple you. Keith would not want that.

“Through all of this, we have seen God,” Willis added. “We have experienced comfort we cannot explain. … We have felt the hand of God.”

David Cleeland, director of missions for Miami Baptist Association, spoke briefly during the funeral, emphasizing Blakley’s role as a Christian in the community, his devotion to his family and his missionary heart.

Cleeland noted Blakley, who had served as a missionary in Cape Town, South Africa, recently had organized a partnership between pastors in Miami and Cape Town. As pastor of Central Baptist, he was instrumental in starting and developing a ministry to the homeless. Sensitive to multi-cultural needs, he led the church in starting Spanish, Creole and Portuguese language missions.

Others paying tribute to Blakley during the memorial service were Gene Whitehouse of St. Augustine, retired administrator at Central Baptist, and Al Fernandez, pastor of Jubilee Community Church in Miami and former associate pastor at Central.

Blakley was a graduate of the University of Texas, Arlington, and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Fort Worth, Texas. He earned his doctor of ministry degree from Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary in Mill Valley, Calif.

Before accepting the Miami pastorate, he served for several years as director of the Baptist Student Union at the University of Miami. Blakley had led Central since 1992. The church was founded July 26, 1896, two days before Miami itself was incorporated, the Herald noted.

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  • Shari Schubert