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Football player suspect in fatal home invasion

BRADENTON — Bradenton Police are still investigating a home invasion robbery that left one woman dead and two men injured Sunday.

One suspect has been charged with murder.

Ta Heem Lafayette Blake, 17, of Palmetto was taken to Bayfront Medical Center in St. Petersburg, where he was later arrested. Blake is a running back on the Palmetto High football team.

Police found Blake at the scene incapacitated after he was shot.

His family declined to comment on the shooting and charges he is facing.

Investigators were on scene in the 900 block of 25th Street East at 5:46 a.m. after a neighbor reported hearing gunshots fired. Detectives believe more than one person forced their way into the home.

The man and woman, who were boyfriend and girlfriend, resided in the home, and both were shot. Police have not released their names pending family notification.

The man who was shot was sitting in the passenger seat of a car about six hours after the shooting outside his home. He was still wearing his hospital bracelets. He stared straight ahead still in shock.

Through a Spanish-speaking interpreter, he said, “We were trying to fight them off.”

Teary-eyed family members gathered at the residence when police left. They declined to comment Sunday.

Curtis Williams, who left the house Sunday afternoon, has known the couple since they were small children. Williams said he doesn’t know why their house was targeted by intruders.

“They’re very nice people. She was a wonderful lady. The family is taking it very hard,” he said.

A neighbor, who declined to have her name used out of fear of retaliation, said at least three adults lived at the home with children and had just moved in within the last couple of months.

She awakened to hear several gunshots Sunday morning and to discover crime scene marking off her yard. She said she was still shaking.

“I’m surprised. You don’t want stuff like this happening when you are raising your kids here,” she said. She said the street is mostly quiet when it comes to police calls. There are occasional gun shots heard from time to time, neighbors said.

Police are still interviewing people and investigating possible motives.

Anyone with any information can contact Bradenton Police Detective Kevin Bunch at 932-9380 or remain anonymous by calling Crimestoppers at (866) 634-TIPS (8477).

Beth Burger, criminal justice reporter, can be reached at 708-7919.

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