Deputy kills truck stop murder suspect

Texas law enforcement officers fatally shot a pickup driver on a crime spree after he murdered a grandmother who protected her grandchildren from him at a truck stop.

The Potter County Sheriff’s Department later determined the pickup driver had followed Sharrel Blankenbaker, 63, of Felts, Okla., to Love’s Country Store at Interstate 40 West on Aug. 3.

At 9:05 p.m. Aug. 3, sherriffs’ deputies received a call from a 12-year-old girl who said the suspect had grabbed her and had a gun, but she pushed him away. Blankenbaker stepped in front of her three grandchildren and told the assailant to leave them alone. He shot her and she died on the way to an area hospital.

A few minutes earlier, Amarillo police had responded to an attempted abduction at a convenience store. The suspect had put a semi-automatic handgun to the neck of a 31-year-old woman who was putting air in her vehicle’s tire. He told her to get in his pickup or he would kill her, but she escaped and ran into the store, and he drove away.

Shortly after the Love’s incident, authorities received a 911 report that an 11-year-old child had been abducted. Two 11-year-old girls were walking down a street when the suspect drove by and asked if they were OK. He then turned the pickup around, got out of the vehicle and said he wanted to show the girls something. One girl ran off and the suspect grabbed the other child, forced her into the truck at gun point and reportedly told her he would kill her. 

At 9:24 p.m., a Potter County sheriff’s deputy spotted a pickup matching the description of the suspect’s vehicle. He followed the pickup until backup law enforcement arrived. When another deputy’s vehicle approached, the girl escaped by jumping from the moving vehicle.

The driver attempted to flee and fired shots, but a deputy shot at the suspect and he died at the scene. The 11-year-old girl suffered scrapes and abrasions from her fall from the truck. She was later treated and released from a local hospital. 

The sheriff’s department identified the slain suspect as Gary Don Carner, 58, of Amarillo. The deputy involved in the shooting was placed on three-day administrative leave in accordance with department policy. 

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