An eight-minute speech by the daughter of a slain Texas police officer is receiving nationwide attention for its powerful message of forgiveness and hope in the face of tragedy.
Richard Houston II, an officer and 21-year veteran of the Mesquite (Texas) Police Department, was shot and killed in the line of duty on December 3 while responding to a call of a disturbance in a grocery store parking lot.
His 18-year-old daughter, Shelby, delivered a eulogy Thursday at Lakepointe Church in Rockwall that sparked a standing ovation by those in attendance. A 90-second clip from the eulogy has been viewed more than 800,000 times on Twitter.
Shelbys father, Officer Richard Houston, was murdered last week in Texas. I don’t know if I’ve ever witnessed such a powerful display of God’s mercy & grace.— Thomas Delp (@ThomasDelp) December 10, 2021
The next time our lost neighbor, co-worker, or family member aggravates us...remember the words of this grieving daughter. pic.twitter.com/TX2RJbA86v
Shelby said she doesn't hate the man, Jamie Jaramillo, who is charged with killing her father. Instead, she said she feels compassion for him – and wants him to come to know Christ. Jaramillo was briefly hospitalized after being injured from what police said was a self-inflicted wound.
She recounted the discussions she had with her father about fellow officers who were killed.
"I remember having conversations with my dad about him losing friends and officers in the line of duty," she said. "I have heard all the stories you can think of – but I've always had such a hard time with how the suspect is dealt with. Not that I didn't think there should be justice served, but my heart always ached for those who don't know Jesus – their actions being a reflection of that. I was always told that I would feel differently if it happened to me. But as it's happened to my own father, I think I still feel the same.
"There has been anger, sadness, grief and confusion," she said. "And part of me wishes that I could despise the man who did this to my father. But I can't get any part of my heart to hate him. All that I can find is myself hoping and praying for this man to truly know Jesus. ... When I heard the news that he was in stable condition, part of me was relieved. My prayer is that someday down the road, I get to spend some time with the man who shot my father – not to scream, not to yell at him, not to scold him, [but] simply to tell him about Jesus."
Her father, she said, never missed her or her sibling's sporting and extracurricular events. He was, she added, "our biggest fan, on and off the court and field," and he "supported every decision I made." On her fourth birthday, she said, he dressed up as the Scarecrow from Wizard of Oz while she dressed up as Dorothy.
"He'd put all the face makeup on, make the costume, just to dress up … alongside me," she said.
Her father also was a man of strong faith, she said.
"I know as he entered the gates of heaven, he was greeted with, 'Well done, good and faithful servant.' What a moment that was. The days, weeks, months and years ahead will surely be hard – but at the same time, so sweet, knowing I'm one second, one minute, one hour closer to being with him again. There was still a lot of life I was looking forward to spending with him."
Shelby said she has found strength in her faith.
"In my deepest wound, I saw the glory of Jesus, and it has astounded me," she said. "You're my hero, daddy. And I'm so proud to call you my father. I love you most, and I'll see you someday soon."
Photo courtesy: ©Getty Images/Jeff Greenough
Video courtesy: WFAA
Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and news for 20 years. His stories have appeared in Baptist Press, Christianity Today, The Christian Post, the Leaf-Chronicle, the Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.