On Thursday, Feb. 11, Charles Blackledge, 46, was struck and killed on by a car while bicycling on Dixie Highway near Northeast 16th Court in Fort Lauderdale.
Witnesses told police, a silver two-door car hit Blackledge and dragged him 30 feet before speeding away. Crime stoppers are offering a $3,000 reward for information leading to the capture of the driver.
A candlelight vigil was held Sunday evening at the scene where family and friends recalled fond memories of Blackledge.
“He could do anything, he was extremely smart,” said Blackledge’s sister, Tonya McElveen. “He always helped people. He was artistic. He could play different instruments. He was so caring.”
McElveen drove down from Arkansas to claim her brother’s remains. Nearly thirty people supported her at Sunday night’s candlelight vigil; many of them concerned neighborhood residents.
“This is enough,” said Laura Crosenco, a resident who lives just yards away from where Blackledge was killed. “Charles Blackledge is one victim too many. He could be any of us… Enough! The City of Fort Lauderdale needs to wake up and do something about it.”
Even during the vigil, with pedestrians and mourners gathered by the roadway, it was clear many motorists disregarded the posted 30 MPH speed limit. Many raced by the memorial at high rates of speed, without slowing down.
“This is disgusting,” said Bob Giaccio, a resident of the neighborhood. “I live here, and I can’t pull into my own driveway without the car behind me honking its horn and giving me the finger. It’s ridiculous.”
Meanwhile, Blackledge was remembered as a kind soul who was rarely bothered or angry at life’s circumstances.
“He was funny and sweet…the gypsy type,” said Dennis Collage, Blackledge’s ex-boyfriend. “When I met him, I instantly fell in love with him. I hope we can catch whoever did this to him.”
Tony Firori, Collage’s current boyfriend, was more matter of fact.
“We need to get this piece of shit out of the woods and into jail,” Firori said. “This is not a freeway, it’s a road.”
Crosenco said plans have been in the works for years to improve pedestrian conditions along the corridor, but the city is dragging its feet. Specifically she challenged Fort Lauderdale Mayor Jack Seiler and Commissioner Dean Trantalis to respond to this tragedy with action and tangible results.
Two years ago, one resident, Domingo Cid wrote a full page letter to the editor to SFGN complaining about the city commission’s lack of progress on the corridor.
In his letter, Cid singled out Trantalis for his lack of cooperation: “We are the people who have to deal with unsafe conditions on a daily basis,” he wrote, “Why would a commissioner hinder a community so by continually putting up roadblocks to a safe and fundable plan?”
Trantalis, who was present at a fundraiser for the re-election of a gay Rhode Island congressman at a coffee shop off Dixie Highway on Friday afternoon, was not present at the vigil for Mr. Blackledge on Thursday evening.
SFGN contacted Trantalis and is awaiting a return call for comment on the situation.
Anyone with information about the hit-and-run is encouraged to call Broward Crime Stoppers at 954-493-TIPS.