Titusville Labor Day shooting victim back home

Bruce Blake survives being shot by neighbor

TITUSVILLE, Fla. - The sole survivor of a shooting that killed 2 of his neighbors returned home on Sunday afternoon, Local 6 news partner Florida Today reports.

Bruce Blake was released from a Rockledge rehabilitation center Sunday afternoon, and returned home for the first time since the Sept. 3 shooting, greeted by about 40 family members, friends and neighbors.

He was shot by his neighbor who lived two doors away, 43-year-old William "Billy" Woodward. Woodward is charged with shooting the three men in the culmination of escalating tensions between himself and the others.

"The Lord was with me," Blake told Florida Today, standing outside his Smith Drive home in Titusville where he was shot. "I figure he's got something in mind for me."

Blake said even he is surprised by his speedy rehabilitation, saying: "I'm blowing my own mind." He credits it to his determination during his rehabilitation, coupled with the skilled work of the medical and rehabilitation teams.

"I literally worked my way out of there," Blake said, leaving the rehabilitation center more than two weeks ahead of schedule.

He's getting around with the help of a cane and was catching up Sunday evening with guests who came to his welcome-home get-together.

Blake, 49, was in an Orlando hospital for eight days and went through nine surgeries and an induced coma. He has 17 bullet wounds, as some of the 11 bullets went both in and out of his body. He still has a bullet lodged near his spine and one in his left calf. He said the wounds damaged his stomach, colon, liver and spleen, and he battled infection, but he expects a full recovery.

Coming home Sunday to his wife and two daughters, Blake said, was "the greatest feeling in the world. It's the greatest day of my life."

Blake said he often thinks of his neighbors who died from injuries in the shooting — Gary Lee Hembree, 39, who died at the scene, and Roger Picior, 44, who died a few days later. Blake said he sometimes wonders "why I was the only one left and they were gone.

He also thinks about the suspect, saying, "We used to be like best friends. He was a good neighbor. Then it all changed."

He said he could not discuss specifics about the time leading up to the shooting, but said details would come out in court.

Blake's wife, Keri, 31, said she is amazed by Bruce's quick recovery.

"It's a miracle that he's still here," Keri Blake said. "He's my Superman. God was definitely on his side that night. It's very heartwarming to have him back home. We missed him a lot."

Keri Blake said she and their daughters, Crystal Hale, 11, and Emily Blake, 6, were in the house the night of the shooting and "we heard it all." Considering what happened, she said, the girls are "doing good," and one of them continues to wear a friendship bracket given to her earlier this year by one of Woodward's daughters.

"It's a sad thing, but we're managing," Keri Blake said.

She said her husband and Woodward "were best friends" at one time, but "it went to hell in a handbasket one day."

Bruce Blake said he plans to return to his business, Sea Monster Mobile Welding, as soon as he can.

"I've got to get back to work. The bills aren't going to stop," he told Florida Today. "I'm going right back into it."

Woodward, who surrendered to police at his home, was indicted by a grand jury Wednesday on two counts of first-degree murder and one count of attempted first-degree murder while inflicting great bodily harm with a firearm.

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