Priest-Shooting Suspect Sought Apology, Mom Says

The mother of Dontee Stokes, the 26-year-old man accused of shooting a Roman Catholic priest, said all her son wanted was an apology from the clergyman, who he said molested him when he was a teenager.

Tamara Stokes accused the Baltimore Archdiocese of mishandling her son's accusations, which were first made in 1993.

"All he wanted was an apology due to what had happened," Stokes said Tuesday night as she stood in front of her home with family and friends holding candles and praying for her son's release.

Dontee Stokes turned himself in Monday night, hours after the Rev. Maurice Blackwell was shot and seriously wounded. The suspect told police he shot the priest for refusing to talk to him, police spokeswoman Ragina Averella said.

Later that night, Stokes walked into a service at a nearby church and told the Rev. R. Lee Johnson that he had shot Blackwell, Johnson said. After meeting with Johnson, Stokes decided to call police and turn himself in, Johnson said.

"He said he wished to give his life to Christ," Johnson said Tuesday night while visiting Stokes' home.

Stokes was to be formally arraigned Wednesday morning on charges of attempted murder, gun violations and assault. He was being held without bail.

Stokes' mother said she hoped to bring her son home after the hearing. She said the charges should be dropped because her son "was not in the right state of mind" at the time of the shooting.

Cardinal William Keeler, archbishop of Baltimore, said he was "appalled" by the shooting, the latest twist in the sex-abuse scandal that has rocked the American Roman Catholic Church.

Blackwell, 56, was in serious but stable condition at University of Maryland Shock Trauma Center. He was shot Monday in his left hand and twice in his left side near his hip, police said.

In 1993, the church concluded that Stokes' claims of being molested by Blackwell as a teenager were not credible. However, the priest has been on involuntary leave since 1998 because of accusations leveled by another alleged victim.

Tamara Stokes said the archdiocese never contacted her family to discuss her son's case. She also said she has had ill-will toward Blackwell since 1993.

"This is my child that he did things to. I trusted him," she said. "I put him up on a perch to be a guidance counselor for my son. I do regret that he has been shot. I wish that matters had been handled much sooner and that it hadn't gotten to this point."

Since the sex scandal erupted in Boston early this year, the uproar has led to the dismissal or resignation of dozens of priests across the country. The Rev. Don Rooney, 48, of the Cleveland diocese shot himself to death after being accused of molesting a girl.

Cardinal Keeler said he was "appalled that another act of violence has occurred in the city of Baltimore." He also said: "This is a new experience for all of us. What I sense is an exquisite quality of pain."

Police said Stokes had a .357-caliber handgun in a black duffel bag when he drove past Blackwell's home Monday evening, circled the block and came back. Police said Stokes tried several times to talk to the priest, but Blackwell showed no interest in speaking with him.

Stokes, a barber who has a 20-month-old daughter, told authorities he "doesn't know what came over him" after that, according to the police report.

Police said Stokes opened fire from the car. Six hours later Stokes called police from Gillis Memorial Christian Community Church, telling officers Blackwell molested him as a teenager.

According to a 1993 police report, Stokes, then 17, told officers that Blackwell had touched and fondled him for three years while he attended Bible study classes at St. Edward Roman Catholic Church.

The police never charged Blackwell. The archdiocese conducted its own investigation and found the charges were not credible, said Ray Kempisty, a spokesman for the Baltimore Archdiocese.

Stokes' uncle said what happened to his nephew as a teenager traumatized him. "His manhood was taken from him," Charles Stokes told The Associated Press.

Blackwell was sent to a church-run residential treatment center in Hartford, Conn., for psychological evaluation and returned to priestly duties.

An independent board criticized the decision, but Keeler said at the time that he had met with Blackwell and was satisfied the priest "had recommitted himself to faithful spiritual service."

However, the archdiocese stripped Blackwell of his priestly duties four years ago after finding he had a relationship with another minor, Kempisty said. Blackwell was removed as pastor of St. Edward, where he had worked since 1979.

Church officials said Blackwell admitted to the relationship. Police investigated but again did not charge Blackwell, according to the archdiocese.

Blackwell's sport utility vehicle, which had license plates reading "PRIEST," was parked Tuesday afternoon near his home. It had what appeared to be two bullet holes in it.

Norma Allen, a neighbor who has known Blackwell for 20 years, said the accusations against him did not reflect the outgoing and charitable man she knew.

"Never in my life would I ever imagine that would happen," she said. "They're getting really crazy when they start shooting people of faith, people of God."

The Associated Press reported to this report.