'Terrified' college student tells how she calmed down armed kidnapper

Jessica Willey Image
Tuesday, August 20, 2019
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The University of Houston-Clear Lake senior didn't know how it was all going to end, but says crises of the past helped her survive.

KEMAH, Texas -- A Texas college student survived a terrifying abduction with an armed and quite distraught man.

And now she has a cautionary tale for others who may find themselves alone and in a similar life-or-death situation.

Shasta Blackerby says her ability to stay calm and talk reasonably to her kidnapper may very well have saved her life.

Blackerby was on her phone at a Texaco gas pump in Kemah, Texas around 6:20 p.m. Saturday.

She didn't even notice a man approach her.

"I was at pump three. He was less than a foot away from me," Blackerby said.

"I was quite terrified."

She was focused on her phone when she says 39-year-old Ernest Leon took her by surprise and demanded her keys. She refused.

"I'm never going to be on my phone again," Blackerby said. "Didn't even notice him until he's right beside me already."

"And that's when he said, 'I have a gun,' and I looked and said, 'Yeah, he has a gun' and that's when he pulled it up and fired it."

Leon fired once into the air and told her to get into the car and drive.

She hoped someone would see what was happening and call for help. As calm as she is now, she started to talk to him.

"I was in a very low voice, I asked him what was wrong, he started crying in the car," Blackerby said.

He told her his wife just left him.

Her tactic worked.

He put the gun down, she says. By then, Kemah police had her car surrounded on the road.

Within moments, Leon was under arrest for aggravated kidnapping.

Police usually tell people to always comply. Blackerby says her experience told her otherwise in that moment.

"I've seen a lot of bad people and I feel like that was the only way, because I thought he wasn't going to listen," Blackerby said. "I felt like if he felt he could trust me, that would be the only way out."

The 21-year-old University of Houston-Clear Lake senior spent most of her life in foster care. Now she works as a resident advocate at a homeless shelter, and is working on a degree in social work.

Crises of the past, she believes, helped her survive for her future.

"Had I freaked out, I don't think it would have been the same at all."