The public memorial service for slain Arapahoe High School student Claire Davis was filled almost to capacity on New Year's Day at the National Western Stock Show, where Davis had just competed last year.
Thousands turned out for Davis' memorial, including Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper, U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet and Colorado Olympic medalist Missy Franklin who grew up near Arapahoe High School. Hickenlooper also ordered the flags to be lowered to half-staff Wednesday.
Davis, 17, was a young equestrian who loved horses and last week the National Western Stock Show announced it would rename one of their popular horse show events the Claire Davis Memorial Gambler's Choice Horse Show in her memory. In addition, the stock show said it would host a moment of silence for Davis before every ticketed horse show event this year and place a large yellow ribbon on its Events Center for their 108th annual stock show from Jan. 11-26.
During the service, Davis' father Michael Davis said that Claire had spoken to the killer just before he shot her.
"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," said Michael Davis.
The Davis family also announced that they have forgiven shooter Karl Pierson and that they are setting up the Arapahoe High School Community Fund Honoring Claire Davis -- a program to support charities that promote mental health care and anti-bullying programs in the local community.
According to KKTV, Davis competed in a horse show in the 2013 National Western Events Center, and had been scheduled to compete again in 2014, but her life was cut short just weeks before this year's event when a classmate walked into her school armed with a shotgun, a machete, incendiary devices and over 125 rounds of ammunition.
"The National Western does a wonderful job of supporting young equestrians, like Claire," said Claire's mother, Desiree Davis. "We're so appreciative that they've agreed to host this special celebration of Claire's life and for everything they're doing to honor Claire's memory."
In a statement, Paul Andrews, President and CEO of the National Western Stock Show praised Davis for her uplifting personality and horsemanship:
Our thoughts and prayers go out to the Davis family at this difficult time. Claire's passion and love of horses and competition embodied what we deeply value at the National Western Stock Show. She was an excellent equestrian and a great example for all youth in the world with her positive attitude and leadership. We are honored to help celebrate her life through the numerous horse show events during our 2014 Show.
Davis was killed in the shooting at Arapahoe High School on Friday, Dec. 13th, 2013 after being shot at point-blank range. She was in critical condition for eight days, but during that time "she did something extraordinary" by staying in the public consciousness and ultimately becoming better known than the gunman, read one moving tribute posted in The Colorado Observer:
This time, the antagonist was eclipsed by the protagonist. And next time, when a young man decides in a fit of murderous rage to open up on a school, you hope that he thinks not of Columbine but of Arapahoe. You hope he recalls a 17-year-old girl with long chestnut hair, a girl who rode horses, a girl who had a favorite band, a girl with friends and family who loved her...
Claire Esther Davis missed Christmas by four days, but she left behind a gift. She showed that an attention-seeking killer’s bid for everlasting notoriety can be foiled by a community that chooses instead to focus on a beloved teenage girl. And she did it without ever opening her eyes.
During a press conference on Monday, Arapahoe County Sheriff Grayson Robinson said he would be haunted by the circumstances of Davis' death.
"I will personally be forever touched by the death of Claire Davis. She was a person of purpose and principle," Robinson said. "And I'm going to use it to be a loud voice on a whole range of issues."