Mark Figley: An amazing message of forgiveness

By Mark Figley - Guest Columnist

Muskogee, Oklahoma is a county-seat city which mirrors Lima in many respects with a population of nearly 40,000. And while it is likely best known for being commemorated in the 1969 Merle Haggard country classic “Okie From Muskogee,” since 1995, it’s crime rate has increased by 45%; much of it gang-related.

The days when small U.S. towns such as these could be considered peaceful are long since past, which makes the events surrounding Sunday, February 28, of this year all the more remarkable.

On that day, 17-year-old Farrah Rauch and her 17-year old boyfriend, Joseph Dugan, unsuccessfully attempted a carjacking in Muskogee, then stole another before leading police on a high-speed chase. The driver, Dugan, refused to stop before crashing, at which time both subjects began running from the scene.

Officers gave chase and Rauch began shooting at them. Police returned fire killing her. Meanwhile, Dugan proceeded to hide in a heavily wooded area nearby, and after being surrounded, took his own life with a self-inflicted gunshot.

Dugan and Rauch were identified as runaways from Blair, Nebraska. Rauch was awaiting sentencing in her hometown on theft and marijuana possession the following week. She and Dugan were also suspected of other crimes in Florida and Arkansas.

The even harder part was still to come; informing the victim’s families. Yet upon officers doing just that with Farrah’s father, Steven Rauch, they weren’t met with vile threats or hate. Instead, he apologized to them for his daughter having put them in the position she did. Rauch also expressed forgiveness to the officers involved in the shooting. Then he did the unthinkable; he invited Muskogee Police Chief Johnny Teehee and the four officers involved in the shooting to speak at his daughter’s funeral. But Rauch wasn’t done.

He went on local television and said the officers in question needed to be hugged; acknowledging that they were in just as much pain as he was, and that they were loved. Where did Steven Rauch summon such strength, especially after Farrah had suffered in the four years after her parents’ divorce by mutilating herself and abusing drugs?

Teehee was shocked at the invitation too and summed it up best when he said, “It’s something you have to rely on God to do. There’s a message that somebody needs to hear, and God needs me to be the messenger.”

Chief Teehee attended Farrah’s funeral on March 10 and courageously spoke at the service as well. The four other officers were still too raw to show up, though they have since been legally cleared of their actions. Rauch wishes more people in circumstances such as his would react as he did, adding, “I feel like Farrah has a message.” For his part, Teehee vows to carry this message of forgiveness forward in everything he does.

At a time when police and their communities are seemingly at odds everywhere, why has such an uplifting story gone largely unreported? Could it be that it doesn’t fit the usual media narrative of “white officer shoots black suspect” or contribute to “defund the police?” Though Rauch and the four officers were white, they still bleed red and once breathed the same air. And emotional pain has no boundaries. It is inflicted upon all of us by virtue of our humanity.

Out of tragedy, hope can flourish. The four officers involved in the shooting of Farrah Rauch will never forget the events which led to her tragic death, but they will also forever remember the courageous example set forth by her father, who reminds us that the healing power of love can still triumph over hate.

By Mark Figley

Guest Columnist

Mark Figley is a political activist and guest columnist from Elida. His column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of The Lima News editorial board or AIM Media, owner of The Lima News.

Mark Figley is a political activist and guest columnist from Elida. His column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of The Lima News editorial board or AIM Media, owner of The Lima News.

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