'Heaven has gained an angel'
Arapahoe High shooting victim Claire Davis dies
The list of items, each one dropped off as a gesture of hope and support, continued to grow.
The flowers, the candles, the cards, the teddy bears, the balloons, the banners urging strength. Since Dec. 13, they piled up outside a fence at Arapahoe High School in Centennial.
Claire Davis - and all of Arapahoe High - was tight within an extended community's embrace.
Nine days after Davis was shot in the head, one item, a yellow poster board, spelled out the heartbreaking conclusion of her fight for life.
"Heaven has gained an angel."
Davis had died the previous day, at 4:29 p.m. Dec. 21, at Littleton Adventist Hospital, her family by her side. The 17-year-old had been in critical condition since fellow Arapahoe High student Karl Pierson shot her at the school around 12:30 p.m. Dec. 13.
A statement posted on the hospital's Facebook page announced the news to the community and to those around the nation and the world who spent more than a week praying for Davis to recover. The hospital's message seemed to indicate that Davis was indeed "Warrior Strong" - a mantra built on the school's nickname and the need to rebound from a nightmare - until the end.
"Despite the best efforts of our physicians and nursing staff, and Claire's fighting spirit, her injuries were too severe and the most advanced medical treatments could not prevent this tragic loss of life. Claire's death is immensely heartbreaking for our entire community, our staff and our families."
Shortly after that posting, the hospital relayed a message from the Davis family, which, in part, stated: "Although we have lost our precious daughter, we will always be grateful for the indelible journey she took us on over the last 17 years - we were truly blessed to be Claire's parents. The grace, laughter and light she brought to this world will not be extinguished by her death; to the contrary, it will only get stronger."
Davis, who loved horses and the boy-band One Direction, was a senior at Arapahoe. Authorities believe she just happened to be near the north entrance to the school used by Pierson as he made his charge to the library in search of his primary target, the coach of the speech and debate team. The shotgun-wielding Pierson killed himself in the library about a minute after shooting Davis.
Arapahoe County Sheriff Grayson Robinson said the two teenagers knew each other, but likely not well, and that there is no evidence she was a target of Pierson's.
"As the result of discussions with the Davis family and friends of Claire Davis, it is clear that Claire and the shooter were school acquaintances, but were never close friends," Robinson said in a Dec. 18 news release.
Over the weekend, Davis' family announced the establishment of the Arapahoe High School Community Fund honoring Claire Davis. The charitable fund will "support Arapahoe High School and the surrounding community by providing assistance for mental health care, anti-bullying programs and other community needs," according to a statement by the City of Centennial.
Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper posted a statement on his Facebook page the night of Davis' death, offering his condolences.
"Claire Davis personified the love and kindness she learned from her family," he wrote. "All of Colorado feels that. They are in our hearts."
Littleton Adventist said information regarding a public celebration of Davis' life will be announced at a future date.
Statement from the Davis family
The following statement from Claire Davis' family was posted Dec. 21 on Littleton Adventist Hospital's Facebook page:
It is with unspeakable sadness that we write and say that Claire has passed away from the gunshot wound she received at Arapahoe High School on December 13, 2013. Although we have lost our precious daughter, we will always be grateful for the indelible journey she took us on over the last 17 years - we were truly blessed to be Claire's parents. The grace, laughter and light she brought to this world will not be extinguished by her death; to the contrary, it will only get stronger.
Last week was truly a paradox in that we lost our daughter, yet we witnessed the wonderful love that exists in the world through the tremendous outpouring of support we received. We'd like to take this opportunity to thank the first responders, the school resource officer, security guard and vice principal at Arapahoe High School, the Arapahoe County Sheriff's office, and the physicians, nurses and staff at Littleton Adventist Hospital. Each played a significant role in giving Claire a chance to live, and demonstrated extreme amounts of professionalism, courage and love. Please know that we will never forget the extraordinary work you did on Claire's behalf.
We ask that you give us time to grieve the death of our daughter by respecting our wishes for privacy.
With much loving-kindness,
The Davis Family