DENVER (AP) – The father of a student who killed a classmate at a suburban Denver high school before committing suicide posted a newspaper obituary for his son on the anniversary of the shooting, saying he forgives his son and wants him remembered as a person “who lost his way for a moment.”
The Saturday obit came the same day a candlelight vigil was held for 17-year-old Claire Davis, the girl slain in the attack.
Mark Pierson told The Associated Press that he didn’t mean to disrespect the Davis family but wanted his son, Karl, to also be remembered for the good things he did in life. He said he did not post an obit immediately after last year’s shooting because he felt it was not the appropriate time.
In the obituary, he called his son “a young man full of hope and promise, who lost his way for a moment, but now is found. I love you, I miss you, I forgive you.” It was signed, simply, “Dad.”
“I thought this was a nice tribute. He did some things right in his life. Everyone remembers Karl for the last 80 seconds of his life,” Mark Pierson said Saturday. He said he also wants his son remembered as an Eagle Scout who had leadership qualities and a lot of potential.
Police say the 18-year-old targeted his debate coach when he entered Arapahoe High School with a shotgun, machete, homemade bombs and 125 rounds of ammunition on Dec. 13, 2013. He shot Davis before turning the gun on himself. The coach escaped unharmed.
Davis’ parents couldn’t be reached for comment about the obituary, but her father spoke at the Saturday night vigil for Claire Davis. The event took place on a grassy area in front of Arapahoe High School and was attended by about 400 people.
“It’s been a year since any of us last talked to Claire. Or saw her smiling face and her twinkling eyes. And her bouncing walk,” Michael Davis said.
“I want to thank all of you for coming out tonight and for being with us. And for sharing with us a few minutes to remember Claire and to make this a bit of a healing moment for everybody,” he said.
Gov. John Hickenlooper also spoke at the vigil, as did the school’s student president.
School officials said they did not punish Pierson after he shouted a death threat against the coach months earlier in a school hallway. The coach was so fearful after the encounter he considered resigning, according to police reports.
But administrators deemed Pierson low-risk, despite a threat-assessment that showed a history of violent behavior and angry outbursts.
The district has declined to comment about the way it responded to the shooting, the threat or Pierson’s behavioral issues.
Nearly a year later, investigators released portions of Pierson’s diary in which he described himself as “a psychopath with a superiority complex” and indicated he was exacting revenge for being teased in elementary school. He said he planned the attack to start a conversation about teasing.
Statement From Karl Pierson’s Mother
To the Arapahoe families and community. As we come together at this one year anniversary of the tragic loss of Claire and Karl, and during this time of renewal at advent, may we find:
Hope in our grief,
Peace in our fear,
Joy in our struggles, and
Love in our loss.
I am truly grateful for the love, care, and compassion this community has shown by reaching out to my family and to each other this past year. Now, let us engage in difficult conversations so we may learn, and listen with open hearts and open minds so we may heal.
My thoughts and prayers continue to be with the Davis family and the AHS Community.
Barbara Pierson, Karl’s mom, always and forever
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– By Steven K. Paulson, AP Writer
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