The parents of a Pennsylvania state trooper who was shot and killed by an anti-government survivalist have said they forgive their son's attacker, explaining that their Christian faith allows them to grieve in a manner "different than the world carries."
In September, 38-year-old Cpl. Bryon Dickson II was killed and his colleague, Trooper Alex Douglass, 31, critically injured after Eric Frien, 32, opened fire during a late-night shift change at the state police barracks in Pike County, PA.
Frien, described by authorities as an an "anti-government survivalist" with a history of sharing anti-law enforcement views online, led police on a costly, six-week manhunt through the northeastern Pennsylvania woods before U.S. marshals caught him outside an abandoned airplane hangar.
Speaking on Sunday at a service held in honor of their son at Community Church in Tobyhanna, Bryon and Darla Dickson explained that their Christian faith has allowed them to forgive their son's killer and refrain from bitterness.
"It doesn't do you any good to hate somebody for whatever they have done to you, because all it does is eat you up. And in the end, what does it do for you? Absolutely nothing," said Bryon Dickson, local station WPVI-TV reports.
Addressing the congregation, Darla recalled the moment she was told her son, a husband and father of two young children, had been killed in the line of duty.
"What I experienced was just a disbelief beyond degree," she said. "It was very surreal. I just could not even wrap my mind around it."
She acknowledged that it hasn't been easy to forgive Frein, who authorities said did not know her son or Douglass.
"There were days when we had to get up, and it was difficult to set one foot in front of the other and face the world," she said.
However, the couple explained that just as God has forgiven them, they are to forgive others.
"Not keeping a record of wrongdoing gives you hope for tomorrow, a sense of love that displaces all evil in the world," Darla said. "We certainly want justice for Eric Frein because he needs to be accountable, but an attitude of forgiveness allows us to look forward," she added.
Darla cited 1st Thessalonians 4:13, which states, "Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope."
"I miss my son. I grieve for him," she explained "But it's not the kind of grief that the rest of the world carries. I have that hope that I will see him again."
According to NBC, Frein has been charged with shooting the two troopers and faces the death penalty. He has pleaded not guilty.
Pastor Dave Crosby, who led the service, also reminded attendees to give back to those protecting their community through such simple gestures as wearing a blue ribbon, speaking words of appreciation, picking up the tab for a coffee or meal and certainly by praying for them.
"Over 150 law enforcement officers lose their life in service every year and over 60,000 are assaulted," Crosby said, the AP reports. "We need to surround them with prayer."