Dontee D. Stokes, who alleged in 1993 that the Rev. Maurice Blackwell had fondled him over a three-year period, was on suicide watch in city jail last night as the Catholic Church sex scandal took a violent turn. Stokes faces an initial appearance today in District Court.
Police said Stokes told them he shot Blackwell because the priest rebuffed his demand for an apology over the alleged sexual assault, which friends and relatives say torments Stokes.
"That's all he wanted," said Tiffani Taft, 22, his fiancee.
The shooting shocked relatives of the suspect and friends of the priest, who has been on involuntary leave from St. Edward's Catholic Church in West Baltimore since 1998 after admitting to a sexual liaison with another minor two decades earlier.
The incident is just the latest involving Blackwell, who was temporarily removed from his West Baltimore parish after Stokes' allegations surfaced in 1993.
Cardinal William H. Keeler, emerging from a previously scheduled "listening session" with Baltimore Archdiocese priests about the sexual abuse crisis, said he and his priests prayed for Blackwell, "that the Lord be with him, to give him strength," as well as for all victims of molestation by clergy.
"I am appalled that another act of violence has occurred in the city of Baltimore and that tragedy touches a person I have known personally," Keeler said. He refused to answer specific questions about Blackwell's past, referring them to his spokesman.
Barbara Blaine, founder of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, called the shooting "something we've feared for some time."
"We feel badly for both the priest and for the young man," she said. "We are grateful that he had the strength to turn himself in to the police. We hope the priest recovers quickly."
This is the second violent outgrowth of the clergy sex scandal. A priest from the Diocese of Cleveland, the Rev. Don Rooney, committed suicide April 4 after the disclosure of an abuse allegation involving a girl in 1980.
Keeler said he knew Blackwell, though "not well."
"I know that he was much beloved by people in the parish and had a warm and outgoing personality," Keeler said.
What pushed Stokes to shoot Blackwell nine years after he made his allegations is not clear. Relatives and friends said Stokes had been suffering from depression and threatened suicide. His mother, Tamara Stokes, said he might have snapped amid the deluge of reports about the sexual misconduct of clergy across the nation.
Police said Stokes left his house in the 1200 block of Mount Royal Terrace on Monday evening to meet his fiancee for a meal at her workplace. Stokes had a .357-caliber Magnum revolver with him, stuffed in a duffel bag.
As he drove to meet his fiancee, police said, Stokes passed Blackwell talking with another man outside his rowhouse in the 700 block of Reservoir St. Stokes drove by Blackwell once, then circled back and began speaking to the priest through his open passenger window, police said.
"Mr. Blackwell did not show any interest in speaking with [the] victim and after several attempts Mr. Stokes states that he doesn't know what came over him," police wrote in documents charging Stokes with attempted murder.
Stokes told detectives that he "wanted an apology," police said, and did not receive one.