As We Forgive
In a small Georgia town, mercy seasons justice
It was a day he would have spent in celebration. October 5, 2022, marked Craig DeWitt’s birth. Little did he know, when he woke up that morning, that it would also mark his son’s death.
Elijah DeWitt, 18, was shot dead in the parking lot of a Dave & Buster’s outside of the Sugarloaf Mills Mall in Lawrenceville, Georgia. The two young suspects fled the scene, leaving Elijah’s girlfriend behind to scream over his body as he silently mouthed his last word: “Help.”
Elijah cuts a striking figure in photos like the one above, where he poses in full football gear. He was a rising star, headed for a promising career. His solemn, chiseled face is almost too handsome, like it’s not quite real. In a few photos, he is with his girlfriend, an equally blonde, equally impossible beauty.
Hardly any photos have been released of the shooters, except one casual outdoor shot apiece. Both young men are black. Like Elijah, they strike unsmiling poses. One has a mask hanging off his ear. The other has his head slightly cocked, his lips a little twisted.
For now, we can only guess what passed between these three boys in the parking lot. It’s been said that they knew each other, which suggests any number of possibilities, any number of things that could have risen to the surface and boiled over in a hot flash of bullets. Anyone who’s taught high school boys can imagine this. But it would only be guessing, for now.
Two days later, Elijah’s father had something to say to the boys who killed his son: “We don’t know the kids, we don’t know their background, we don’t know their story. They’re forgiven, from me.” Elijah’s girlfriend added that Elijah would have forgiven them. “He said life moves on, it's sad, but you got to pick back up, and you can’t be mad at anybody.” The community rallied around the family with prayers, support, and a candlelight vigil. It prompted Craig to reflect, bittersweetly, that “If you could have a tragedy like this somewhere, I’d say this is it. Come here to have that one because it has just been an amazing community.”
Of course, because this is 2022, it wasn’t long before the Internet had Opinions.
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