Samaria Blackwell was one of the eight people who were killed in a mass shooting at a FedEx facility in Indianapolis. This story focuses on how Blackwell is being remembered.
INDIANAPOLIS — Intelligent, fun-loving and tenacious. Three words the family use to describe the baby of the family, Samaria Blackwell. The 19-year-old was also extremely athletic, playing both soccer and basketball. She grew up in Beech Grove.
On this side of heaven we grieve, but not as those who have no hope, for we recognize Samaria’s life has only just begun,” Tammi and Jeff Blackwell, Samaria's parents, wrote in a statement.
You can read the full statement from Samaria's parents below.
We are thankful for the outpouring of love and support for our family. We are also praying for the families of the other victims of this tragedy. As Samaria’s parents, we were blessed by the Lord to have such a fun-loving, caring daughter as the baby of our family. Being the baby, she looked up to her siblings Elijah, Levi, and Michaiah, who, along with her dog Jasper, will miss her immensely. Samaria was tenacious in everything she did, from playing basketball and soccer to being a lifeguard for Indy Parks. On the court or the soccer field, she had a tough game face, but that quickly turned to a smile outside of competition. Samaria loved people, especially those of advanced age. She always found time to invest in the older generation, whether it was by listening or serving. She spent many hours helping Memaw Sue, from mulching flower beds to setting up Christmas decorations. As an intelligent, straight A student, Samaria could have done anything she chose to put her mind to, and because she loved helping people, she dreamed of becoming a police officer. Although that dream has been cut short, we believe that right now she is rejoicing in heaven with her Savior. Philippians 1:6 says, “I am sure of this, that He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion…” For Samaria, that work is completed and she is sitting with Jesus today. On this side of heaven we grieve, but not as those who have no hope, for we recognize Samaria’s life has only just begun.
A family spokesperson and longtime family friend, Chaplain Matthew Barnes, said Samaria played both soccer and basketball with his daughters.
Her nickname was “Stitches.” Barnes said during a basketball tournament several years ago, Samaria was hit in the eye and needed to go to the hospital to get stitches. Once she was discharged, she wanted to go right back on the court and play.
“She would be on the court, she'd be a mouthguard on and be the meanest looking girl out there," Barnes said. "Step off the court, mouthguard out, she's got this beautiful smile that was just fun-loving. She just cared but people."
Barnes said the families traveled together often for tournaments. Growing up playing basketball, Barnes remembers how the 19-year-old used to loved zooming around on the luggage carts with his girls at national homeschool basketball tournaments.
“She just had a lot of fun,” Barnes said.
“Everything was just infectious”
Ryenne Beaty grew up with Samaria.
“I just want everybody to know that just the kind of selfless person she was and I just told everybody else, you couldn't be with her and not be happy,” Beaty said.
The longtime friend told WRTV Samaria had inside jokes with many.
“She was just herself -- unapologetically,” Beaty said.
No matter how much time passed between seeing each other, Beaty said Samaria would just pick up where things were left off.
“She would always look out for the underdog. Don't let anybody pick on anybody. She's just being there for everybody,” Beaty said.
Samaria called Barnes “Mr. Hoosier Idol.” Barnes works as a Chaplain at the Indiana Statehouse. Every year, the statehouse hosts a fundraiser called “Hoosier Idol” and one year, Barnes won with his team.
“She loved music. She loved having fun, so just those downtimes were just as enjoyable as seeing her on the court or on the soccer field,” Barnes said.
“Life was certainly ahead of her”
Samaria was the baby of the family of six. She had two older brothers and a sister who, Barnes said, she looked up to.
“One of her brothers served in the Marines and she actually looked at the possibility of going into the military,” Barnes said.
Outside of sports, Samaria loved her family dogs and really any dog. She was known as an animal lover.
“They've [the Blackwell family] sent me pictures of her with lots of dogs, different types of dogs all over. I mean, different families’ dogs over at their house, she would just be snuggling with them, as well,” Barnes said.
Samaria was a lifeguard and Indy Parks team member. "She kept her colleagues laughing and easily made friends across the department," a statement from Indy Parks read. "Samaria was a joy to work with, and her parks family will miss her dearly."
You can read the full statement from Indy Parks below.
The entire Indy Parks team expresses heartfelt sympathy to the family and friends of Samaria Blackwell, who served with such grace and dedication as a lifeguard and fellow Indy Parks team member. We are saddened to learn of her death and remain grateful for her service at Garfield and Bethel Parks, and most recently, Indy Island Aquatic Center. She kept her colleagues laughing and easily made friends across the department. Samaria was a joy to work with, and her parks family will miss her dearly. We extend our thoughts and prayers to all of the FedEx shooting victims and their families, and hope together as a community, as a parks department, and as a city that we comfort and encourage each other during this time.
“Samaria had a large heart”
Samaria was said to have loved people.
“Her dad said…the bluer the hair and the balder the head, she just felt more comfortable,” Barnes said.
The basketball player gravitated toward the elderly. In the family’s statement they shared memories of Samaria decorating the Christmas tree with her Memaw.
“I mean, that's not usual for a teenage girl, but that's who she cared about, was the elderly folks and so that's just her heart and [it] demonstrates her character and her care for other people,” Barnes said.
Samaria’s passion to help people made her want to be a police officer one day.
“That was her dream. Her heroes were police officers,” Barnes said.
Some of Samaria’s family members, Barnes said, are police officers that she looked up to.
When Avon Police Deputy Chief Brian Nugent heard of Samaria’s dream, he worked with his department to find a way to honor Samaria. They are collecting patches from law enforcement agencies around the country to eventually give to the family.
“It just really stuck with us as a department and so it was at that point we thought, ‘what could we do?’ You know, what role could we fulfill as an agency outside Marion County that we could do to be supportive of that family,” Nugent said.
Local law enforcement agencies can reach out to Avon police on social media to have an officer meet and get the patch.
Any officers or agencies wishing to provide a patch can mail them to 6550 East U.S. Hwy 36 Avon, IN 46123. Nearby agencies can deliver their patch to our office or direct message our team through social media to coordinate one of our officers to meet up and receive your patch. pic.twitter.com/MclxrC9kOz— Avon Indiana Police Department (@AvonPolice) April 18, 2021
The Blackwell family calls it “Patches for Stitches.”
“She was just going to work”
Samaria was said to only have worked at the facility for about two months.
“That was our mom's phrase, she was just going to work. So yeah, that's a very difficult, difficult thing for the family,” Barnes said.
He was with the family when they received the news. It is their faith, Barnes said, that is helping through this painful time.
“They would want me to tell you that their faith is getting them through. They're experiencing the grace of God, and yet also the surrounding community of faith, buoying them and they would really just like to express their gratefulness to those that are praying for them,” Barnes said.
A GoFundMe has been created to help the family. Barnes said it is his understanding there was no life insurance.
“I reminded the family. There's a short verse in the Bible. In fact, it's the shortest verse in the Bible, and it says ‘Jesus wept.’ And it's okay to just cry, and to get that out,” Barnes said.
Samaria was not only a young woman who loved people, but she loved God, as well. The best way to honor Samaria, is to love unconditionally, care for all and work hard.
“She just cared about people. So let's care about others. Let's love others. And then work hard, play hard. And then smile and be as happy as you can,” Barnes said.More Stories on the FedEx Mass Shooting: The Facts: What we know about the deadly mass shooting at an Indy FedEx facility | Timeline: Deadly mass shooting at FedEx facility in Indy | These are their faces: The victims of the FedEx mass shooting | Brandon Hole: What we know about the Indy FedEx mass shooter | Funeral plans for Indianapolis FedEx shooting victims | Marion Co. Prosecutor describes Red Flag status of FedEx mass shooter | Police union president blasts Marion County prosecutor for not using red flag law against FedEx assailant | IMPD observed white supremacist websites on FedEx shooting suspect's computer in 2020 | Calls for stricter gun legislation in Indiana following FedEx mass shooting | How Indiana's Jake Laird Law works | Mental health experts urge Hoosiers who are hurting after the FedEx shooting to seek help | Reminder: What you should do in an active shooter situation