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OF HEROS & HEROINES
Within a range of 30 minutes lives changed.
Tragedy strikes for one family, when a grandmother saves her granddaughter
from a kidnapper and is shot in front of her grandchildren. Her grandson then
saves his sister and cousin from the homicidal kidnapper.
Another girl saves herself after being kidnapped by the same man, freeing
herself by jumping from his moving vehicle.
2010 - August 3 - 8:55 P.M. - Gary Don Carner (58) approaches a woman (31) who's
putting air in her tire at a convenience store. Carner
asks the woman "Do you need a tire guage?" She
replies "No." Carner places a small silver handgun to
her neck and tells her "Get into the white pickup or
I'll kill you."
Brian Thomas (Potter County Sheriff) "Somehow she got away from him.
The woman fled inside the store, where the clerk locked the
doors. Carner then fled."
9:00 P.M. -
Sharell Blakenbaker (68) and 3 grandchildren, age 5, 16 and 12,
are at Love's Travel Stop in Amarillo, Texas. Two of the children
are Cassidy (12) and her brother Dylan (16).They are driving back
to Oklahoma from the Amarillo airport.
Gary Don Carner (58), overweight, cowboy boots and hat,
is armed with a gun. Jumps from his pickup truck and
grabs hold of Cassidy's arm and tries to pull her into his truck.
Cassidy "He pointed a gun at me and told me, ‘Get in my truck.’
Cassidy "My grandma wouldn’t let him. She got in between us, yelling at the man
to stay away."
Sharell confronts Carner and tells him "Leave my granddaughter alone!"
She steps between Cassidy and Carner and they struggle.
TAKING HER CHANCE
Cassidy "I remember him saying to my grandmother, do you want to die. And I think she
said "No" because I can't remember what he was saying, but then he just turned
to her and shot her and that moment it gave a chance to get my arm loose and
It gave me time to break free of him and start running. I felt helpless and was
torn between helping my grandmother and running to safety. I knew if I stopped
to help her, he might have taken me. I couldn't go over to her and make it all
“I think she’d have done that for anyone. She was just that kind of person.”
Gary Carner shoots Sharell Blankebaker with a small handgun
at point blank range in her back, severely wounding her lung.
A BIG BROTHER HERO
Gary Carner begins following after Cassidy. Her brother Dylan has
already carried their young cousin to safety. He comes back for
his sister Cassidy. He hides the younger two behind the counter
of the gas station, thwaring Carner's plans.
Cassidy phones 911 and reports "A man tried to grab me and he
had a gun. I pushed him away and my grandmother told him to get
away from me and let her go. The man shot my grandmother and left."
COWARD FLEES POLICE
Gary Carner flees the scene.
Several witnesses see the struggle and alert police as to the make and model of
Angel Quezada "We saw an older woman leave with her grandchildren, and
when she did a man approached them and tried to take one
of the kids and he reached around a shot her in the back.
She was screaming, she was screaming for something we
just couldn't tell what she was saying."
Angel Quezada holds Sharrel's hand and prays for her as she loses consciousness.
Angel Quezada "Her last words were about her grandchildren and protecting them
Sharrell Blankenbaker died of her wounds.
Brian Thomas (Potter County Sheriff) "It was a tragic event.The grandmother at
the Love's can be called nothing but a hero.”
KIDNAPPING - SHOOTOUT
9:11 P.M. - Carner sees two girls (both age 11) walking along a road and asks
"Are you okay?" He stops his white pickup and forces one of girls
into his truck at gunpoint. The other girl runs away and summons
A FRANTIC FATHER
A man comes into the store, frantically looking for his daughter.She'd been
forced into a pickup truck as she was walking along the road. The pickup matches
the description of the one involved in Cassidy's attempted kidnapping and the shooting
of her grandmother. 911 has been notified of the man, and the pickup's description.
9:26 P.M. - A Potter County deputy spots the pickup. The kidnapped girl spots
the deputy, opens the truck's passenger door and dives out of the
moving vehicle into a ditch.
9:30 P.M. - Police shoot and kill Gary Carner.
Brian Thomas (Potter County Sheriff) "Deputies then closed in. Carner attempted
to flee and started shooting at deputies. White returned fire and killed
Chief Deputy Roger Short "It was fortunate the deputy quickly discovered the pickup driving slowly along county roads. We think that's a stroke of luck for the little girl. Brian Thomas (Potter County Sheriff) "She suffered scrapes and bruises from her fall and was taken to a hospital. She was later released. She was in good spirits last night. She's a brave little girl.”
FAMILY "She is recovering and we are working to put this behind us. We are working
with counselors before school starts.
"We want to thank everyone for the prayers and support. She is a very brave
little girl. We are working to get her better emotionally and physically."
MOTIVE FOR CRIME SPREE
Brian Thomas (Potter County Sheriff) "I don't know that we'll ever have the answers
to that. We're as baffled as everybody else. There's no indication Carner
had a history of committing such crimes, and there was no indication
Carner knew any of his victims."
Cassidy spoke at her grandmother’s funeral in Oklahoma.
She ended the eulogy with a memory of a storm that hit
right after the shooting, and a brilliant double rainbow that
appeared in the sky.
Cassidy “I said, ‘Whenever you see a rainbow, think of my grandma."
“I think my grandma is the greatest person in the world.
didn’t surprise me that she did that, but I’m really grateful she did.”
Blankenbaker leaves behind her husband, four brothers, three sons and
LOVED ONE'S FITTING TRIBUTE
Dale Blankenbaker (66) (husband of Sharell) "I wasn't surprised about how Sharell
died. She would have done anything to protect those kids,"
I want people to remember Sharell for her kindness.
Five years ago, when a couple of cyclists were stranded in
Felt during a fierce storm. Sharrel them into our home for
shelter, food and an evening of games with her and the
grandchildren. That's who she was. She was very much
about helping people."
Cassidy "My grandmother is my role model. I hope that when I'm older, that I can
be exactly like her. I want to be the best mother-in-law, mother, grandmother,
just be her. She was my role model. She was, I think, the woman everyone
" I have two my grandmother’s rings on one necklace and my grandmother’s
cross on another, “because it makes me feel I have part of her with me.”
“She was the first one to always want to have a party, she always wanted to
have fun and make things positive. She would do anything for you, no matter
what it was.”
“It kind of gets hard after awhile, (Speaking to media) but it’s good talking about
my grandma—but not about what happened. She was the best grandma ever.
She would do everything for you. She taught me how to cook, she read me the
Bible all the time. She was a loving grandma, mother-in-law, sister, everything ...
She was the mother of our family, she really was. She was always there for
Pat Meyers (Friend and neighbor) "She had a strong belief in God and believed in
justice. She believed in doing the right thing no matter what it cost, and
it cost her life. She doted on those grandchildren."
GOOD FROM ILL
Cassidy "I want to be a motivational speaker. I want to talk to other young people,
“tell them not to be a victim, never listen to what that bad person says.”
I want to turn this negative into a positive, to help other kids. Kids would
listen to a kid."
"I know she's watching down on me. She will always love me."