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Home invasion, shooting sad replay of vicious cycle

On Wednesday morning a host of our young men took a major step in life, signing scholarships facilitating their further education and football ambitions.

On Sunday night, another young man from here, once in their position, played on football’s biggest stage.

Yet on Sunday morning, two other young men, former Palmetto High football players who probably harbored such dreams once, were allegedly armed and involved in a deadly home invasion.

A 55-year-old woman was killed, her boyfriend shot, and one of the suspects, his spine severed by return gunfire, is crippled at 17.

What a sobering contrast.

Braden River High’s Willie McNeal, Manatee’s Eric Williams and Palmetto’s Kedric Johnson were among those sharing the fruits of their labor on National Signing Day.

Lakewood Ranch alum Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, an impact rookie for the NFC champion Arizona Cardinals, showed McNeal, Williams, Johnson and the others what heights they can reach if they have the talent, work hard, stay on the right path and avoid people and places that lead to trouble.

Tragically, Ta Heem Blake and Marquis Sanders never embraced that message.

Not that they were stars or close to it.

They did not take full advantage of a vehicle their peers used to improve their lives and give themselves a chance at more success.

I don’t mean trophies or titles.

Rather, a foundation built by discipline, sacrifice and teamwork, attributes invaluable in life, not just the arena.

Students at Palmetto described Blake and Sanders as being incapable of such a heinous act, and that they had what it took to get to college.

Instead, they face serious consequences.

Blake, now paralyzed, was the alleged shooter.

Sanders, 18, was the alleged armed lookout.

Both are charged with murder in the death of Maria Lerma.

The human toll from this senseless shooting is exponential.

The victim’s family is traumatized, a mother and grandmother gone forever.

The suspects’ families, already reeling from what took place, must deal with the ramifications as the courts mete out justice for the brutal crime.

A vicious cycle.

Last July Lakewood Ranch quarterback Tim Brooks was arrested and charged with the fatal shooting of 19-year-old William White Jr.

Brooks is still in Manatee County jail awaiting trial, charged with first-degree murder.

Now Blake and Sanders.

When will they learn?

When will it stop?

Mannix About Manatee, by local columnist Vin Mannix, is about people and issues in Manatee County. Please call Vin Mannix at 745-7055, write him at Bradenton Herald, P.O. Box 921, Bradenton, FL 34206 or email him at Please include a phone number for verification.