Right now there are more questions than answers in the sad and senseless tragedy Tuesday night at the Love's Travel Shop west of Amarillo. This is one of the most disturbing incidents that I can recall locally in many years.
This much I know: Sharrel Blankenbaker, 63, of Felt, Okla., died a senseless but very heroic death in protecting her grandchildren from Gary Don Carner. She had apparently picked up her granddaughters at the Amarillo airport and was on the way back to Oklahoma.
They stopped at Love's, presumably to get something for the road. That's when Carner tried to take her 12-year-old granddaughter from California. Mrs. Blankenbaker stepped in front of her grandchildren to protect them when she was shot and died on the way to the hospital.
Sharrel Blankenbaker, uncommon last name, uncommon courage.
I also know Potter County Sheriff's Office should be commended for their pursuit of Carner, who was later shot and killed by a deputy. Deputies acted quickly and decisively.
What is hardest to comprehend is Carner, 58. I saw his picture on Facebook, where he had 110 friends. He looked like a typical cowboy in his black felt hat. He had a family. But his actions of Tuesday night were of someone on a hell-bent rampage.
According to authorities, he first tried to abduct a woman at 8:55 p.m. at a convenience store at 34th and Soncy. She was airing a tire when Carner approached her, first to ask if she needed a tire gauge, and then pulled a gun on her. She got away, ran into the store and the clerk locked the door. The police were called.
Before Carner could be located, and just 10 minutes later, he was at the Love's where the tragedy unfolded. Carner escaped, and less than 20 minutes later, abducted another girl, this one 11 years old. After deputies spotted Carner, the girl escaped before gunfire was exchanged.
My God, how many lives and familes did Carner wreck in a night of madness? We live in a very fallen world.