This Man’s Daughter Was Fatally Shot at School. She Died Four Days Before Christmas—And Now He’s Teaching Us All a Lesson in Forgiveness

Denver Colorado

On Dec. 13, 2013, Claire Davis was fatally shot at Arapahoe High in Denver, Colorado.
Image: Shutterstock

On December 13th, eighteen-year-old Karl Pierson showed up at Arapahoe High School in Denver, Colorado, filled with rage. He was armed with a shotgun, over 125 shotgun shells, a machete, and three homemade firebombs—intended for a speech teacher. Blinded by his own anger, Pierson shot his classmate, 17-year-old Claire Davis, before taking his own life. After eight days in the hospital, Claire, too, passed away on December 21st.

But rather than being filled by that same anger that consumed Pierson, Claire’s parents, Michael and Desiree Davis, have instead chosen to do something incredible: forgive. And they are asking the world to do the same.

Rather than calling Pierson “the murderer” as some law enforcement officers have chosen to do, Michael Davis reminded us that Pierson was just as much a human as the rest of us.

“The young man that shot Claire had a name. His name was Karl Pierson,” Davis said at Claire’s memorial service on Wednesday, January 1st.

“My wife and I forgive Karl Pierson for what he did,” he continued. “We would ask all of you here and all of you watching to forgive Karl Pierson. He didn’t know what he was doing.”

Davis says that his daughter, too, knew that Pierson was under extreme emotional distress and wasn’t thinking clearly. Her last words, he said, bring to light just how overpowering emotions can sometimes be: she asked him, “Oh my gosh, Karl, what are you doing?”

“[Karl] allowed himself to become filled with anger, rage and hatred,” Davis said. “The fact is that Karl was so blinded by his emotions he didn’t know what he was doing.”

Through this terrible tragedy, the Davises’ words and forgiveness send a powerful message: we should forgive. If a mother and father can forgive the young man who killed their daughter, what other things can each of us resolve to forgive in the coming year?

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