Art Blakey became friends with the man who shot him.
That pretty well sums up Blakey, a police officer who looked for the good in everyone and had time for anyone.
“We missed many hot meals because he was always taking the time to stop and chat,” recalled his daughter Brooke Blakey.
Blakey was the first black sworn officer in the Ramsey County Sheriff’s Office. In 1996, he was shot breaking up a robbery at a St. Paul VFW post.
“His sense of forgiveness was exemplified by the fact that he forgave the man who shot him, and they developed a friendship in later years,” said Dag Sohlberg, a former FBI agent who worked with Blakey.
“Art was truly — he was almost like a holy man.”
Blakey grew up in St. Paul’s Rondo district and never left. He made his daily rounds checking in with friends and checking up on neighbors. “I could set my clock by his movements,” Brooke Blakey said.
He was best known as the chief of the Minnesota State Fair Police for 37 years. Blakey loved the fair and its endless opportunities to make new friends, said his wife, Carolyn Carroll-Blakey.
“When he got shot and was released, he asked to be driven to the fair,” she said. “When he got cancer and got out of the hospital, he asked to be driven to the fair.”
Brooke Blakey followed her father into law enforcement, a choice he was against at first. But he was full of pride when, just before his death, he pinned on her badge as a sergeant with the Metro Transit Police.
Yet this gentle giant remained a mother hen to the end, his daughter said: “He wouldn’t go to sleep every night until I called him and said I was done with my shift.”