Father of Slain Colorado Student Forgives Her Killer in Emotional Memorial Speech

Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
Jan. 2 2014 5:25 PM

"The Young Man That Shot Claire Had a Name"

Josh Voorhees Josh Voorhees

Josh Voorhees is a Slate senior writer. He lives in Iowa City. 

Above is a short video from Wednesday's memorial service for Claire Davis, the 17-year-old Colorado high school student who was shot and killed last month by a classmate before he turned his gun on himself. The entire clip is worth watching, but for my money the most powerful moment begins at the 4:40 mark, when Claire's father, Michael Davis, begins to talk about the gunman who took his daughter's life. Here's a partial transcript:

"The young man that shot Claire had a name. His name was Karl Pierson. For reasons most of us or all of us will never know, Karl allowed himself to become filled with anger, and rage, and hatred. That anger, rage and hatred blinded him, he blindly followed a path that led him to do something that no one should ever do. He took an innocent person’s life. He took our daughter’s life. Claire’s last words are poignant and profound. She said, ‘Oh my gosh, Karl, what are you doing?’
"The fact is that Karl was so blinded by his emotions that he didn’t know what he was doing. In her most innocent and precious way, Claire tried to shine a light on Karl’s darkness. My wife and I forgive Karl Pierson, for what he did, because he didn’t know what he was doing. We would ask all of you here, and all of you watching, to search your hearts and also forgive Karl Pierson. He didn’t know what he was doing."
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Making the unexpected act of forgiveness all the more poignant was the fact that Davis choose to identify Pierson by name—something that the local sheriff had gone out of his way to avoid doing in the wake of the shooting. "He is someone who victimized an innocent young lady by an act of evil, and in my opinion, he deserves no notoriety and certainly no celebrity," Arapahoe County Sheriff Grayson Robinson said said then.

"Karl is no longer with us, so it’s no longer our responsibility to pass judgment," Davis said Wednesday. "As each of us will do one day, Karl has faced the infinite alone."

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