Advertisement

Our coronavirus coverage is free for the first 24 hours. Find the latest information at tampabay.com/coronavirus. Please consider subscribing or donating.

  1. Archive

"I just got tired. I went and did the wrong thing'

Rosa Bell Blake watched the man walk toward her 39-year-old son with a gun.

"I begged him," she said. "I said, "Don't you kill my child. Don't you kill my child.' "

The pleadings were to no avail.

Moments later, according to witnesses and investigators, Robert Lewis Johnson, 67, raised a .22-caliber rifle and fired at Rodell Blake outside a roadside barbecue shed in southwest Brooksville.

Wounded, Blake sprinted past the restaurant and hopped a back fence to get away from his attacker. But the gunshot was fatal.

The sight of the bleeding man running from the restaurant porch was Rosa Bell Blake's last vision of her son.

"That's the last time I saw my child," she said.

Johnson, of 7241 Mobley Road in Brooksville, was being held without bail Sunday on a first-degree murder charge.

In an interview with a Times reporter Sunday at the Hernando County Jail, he admitted that he killed Blake. He blamed the shooting on what he described as a long-running, aggravating feud between the two men.

But Blake's family members said there was no feud, and they portrayed the elderly Johnson as a drunk, jealous man who was simply upset about a friendship between Blake and a woman whom both men knew.

Johnson was "infatuated" with the woman, said Blake's niece, Jeanette McRae. And Johnson believed Blake was involved with her, McRae said.

The Hernando Sheriff's Office declined to discuss the shooting, which remains under investigation, deputies said.

Trouble apparently began Saturday afternoon when Johnson and Blake were at Timmons Big Oak Barbecue at the corner of Timmons and Buck Hope roads.

According to Johnson, Blake had been teasing Johnson all day and "picking at" him. Johnson said that Blake even threatened him with a section of pipe.

"He's been picking at me and picking at me for years and years," Johnson said. "I don't pick at nobody, but the boy kept picking at me, and I got tired. . . . If you had somebody picking at you, what would you do?"

"He just pushed me up too hard," Johnson added. "I said, "Man, you're picking on the wrong man today.' I kept telling him to leave me alone."

Johnson denied that he had been drinking.

He said he regrets shooting Blake. "I'm going to pray to God to move me out of this trouble. I just got tired, and I went and did the wrong thing," he said.

Johnson, whose face was bruised and swollen Sunday, claimed that Blake had punched him in the face and hit him on the right shoulder earlier in the day Saturday.

But others told a different story.

Dwight Stephens, who runs Timmons Big Oak Barbecue, said both men were at the restaurant, then Johnson left and came back to confront Blake.

There had been "a few words back and forth" between the two men, Stephens said, but nothing to suggest the violence that followed. "We didn't think anything about it," he said.

According to Blake's relatives, Johnson had been drinking and was upset because a woman, would not leave the restaurant with him.

Johnson was jealous of a friendship between the woman and Blake, Blake's niece said.

After leaving the restaurant briefly, Johnson came back with a rifle in his car, said Blake's nephew, Robert Blake, who was at the barbecue shed at the time. "He grabbed his rifle and said, "I'm going to kill you, Rodell Blake. I'm going to kill you.' "

Then Johnson lifted the rifle and fired, Robert Blake said.

Before that, there had been no physical contact between the two men, Robert Blake said. The older man's facial bruises must have come from being knocked down after the shooting, Robert Blake added.

Johnson was arrested about 7:30 p.m.

Jail records show he confessed to the crime to officers at the scene.

On Sunday afternoon, relatives of the dead man gathered in a trailer near the scene of the shooting.

McRae, an administrative assistant on maternity leave from the U.S. Navy, said she remembered her uncle as a funny, flamboyant man with a lively sense of humor. He worked in landscaping, she said.

He had survived near brushes with death before Saturday's shooting, she said, including being hit by lightning and falling off a truck.

McRae still could not believe her uncle was dead. "We're very angry. There's nothing that man can say to justify it," she said of Johnson. "There's nothing he can say."

YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE

Advertisement
Advertisement