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Mother of Slain Pennsylvania Trooper Chooses Forgiveness

As Cpl. Bryon Dickson II stepped out the Blooming Grove (Pennsylvania) State Police Barracks on September 12, 2014, he didn't have a chance as he was shot and killed from ambush. Dickson's mother, Darla Dickson, has chosen to forgive her son's killer — and she means it.

On September 12, 2014, Cpl. Bryon Dickson II, 38, had agreed to take the shift of a fellow officer who wanted to watch his son play football that evening. That decision would cost Dickson his life.

About 10:30 that evening, as Dickson was stepping out of the Blooming Grove (Pennsylvania) State Police Barracks, a rifle shot rang out and a .308 caliber bullet pierced the back of his bullet-proof vest. The first shot took Dickson down. He was struck immediately afterwards in the neck with a second shot — what life remained, quickly ebbed away.

When State Trooper Alex Douglass attempted to aid Dickson, the assailant opened fire on him from the woods across the street. Douglass was shot through the hip and pelvis, temporarily paralyzing his right leg.

As Douglass dragged himself into the relative safety of the barracks, officers opened up with assault weapons, providing a suppressing fire and enabling Trooper Robert Golden to reach Dickson, while others aided Douglass. Golden would perform CPR on Dickson until an ambulance arrived. But it was too late; Dickson had lost too much blood.

For 48 days, police searched for the elusive suspect, identified as Eric Frein, a 31-year-old survivalist. When Frein was finally captured, his hand were secured with Dickson's handcuffs and he was escorted to jail in Dickson's patrol car.

. . . a wife and two young sons left without their husband and father, parents left without their son, siblings left without a brother, a critically injured trooper who may never walk normally again, another trooper wracked with guilt that "it should have been him," troopers who were powerless to save "one of their own" . . . .


The Ever-Present Help

Darla and her husband, Bryon (with a son and grandson named after him), and their three children — Stacy, Bryon II and Brandon — were faithful to church, attending Green Ridge Assembly of God in Scranton, Pennsylvania. Darla recalls that her son Bryon really bonded with then youth pastor (now lead pastor), Dave Twiss, making a decision for Christ during those teen years.

She says that even though she sees herself as an "everyday" person, she believes God has given her dreams throughout her life — dreams that He reveals to her as they come to pass, with some being of great comfort. 

Pastors Jim and Dorothy Rugg have been ministering at Mill City AG for the past 25 years. They have come to love the Dicksons, who started attending the church about eight years ago. Darla is a beloved children's worker in "Junior" church while Bryon is a ready volunteer whenever projects arise.

"They are quiet, loving people," Dorothy says of the Dicksons. "They are people of integrity and generous with love towards others." 

It was 2 a.m. September 13 when Darla was awakened by a continual knocking at her rural home door. It was a police officer and a priest.

The news of Bryon's death put her into a state of shock. "I couldn't cry," she recalls, "I just sat down on the couch, put my hands in my face, and said, 'Not my boy...not my boy....'"

As the details of Bryon's death emerged, Darla says that it was then that God surprised her by making Himself who He said He was to her.

"Before this, I was one of those people who said I could never, ever lose a child," she explains. "The surprise for me in this has been that God's Word is true, it is absolutely, in every sense of the word true and faithful to His Name. We sometimes consider ourselves so small, but in God's view, we are everything to Him.

Darla says she believes God gave her a dream, reassuring her that Bryon was safe with Him. In the dream, Bryon told her, "Mom, I'm okay. Don't worry."

Darla's dream wasn't the only reassuring event for the family. The night Bryon was killed, his sister Stacy was at her church's prayer meeting. "At about 10 p.m., her pastor's wife was in prayer with her when she suddenly stopped and told Stacy that she felt strongly the Holy Spirit was telling her to let her know, 'Do not be afraid. Do not be afraid.' About 30 minutes later, Bryon was killed."

Although tears have come and the pain is refreshed day to day, Darla says the Holy Spirit has granted her peace. "I've spoken to many reporters, and each one of them have commented on the overwhelming peace they feel through me — giving me an opportunity to share Christ with each one of them."

But is forgiveness truly possible? Darla says yes. "For the young man who took my son's life, how can I not forgive him when God has forgiven me so much?" she asks. "God has shielded and comforted my heart. I don't have the hatred that other people may have. Can God save him [Frien]? Yes He can. Is God limited? No. Do I hate him [Frien]? No. Hate doesn't bring my son back . . . but he [Frein] is still accountable to the government and the law."

Reflecting on the Pain

Darla recognizes each person is different — even within her own family — and not everyone has the same peace she has experienced. But she urges those who lose family members, such as military families or families of officers lost in the line of duty, to seek Christ's peace. 

"My prayer for each one is that their lives will be filled with and know the peace of God that reigns in darkness. Yes, there will still be grief that tidal waves in, there will be tears, but they will recede and the sands of life remain . . . you will remember those times — the memories of joy, good things, silly things, the things that drove you nuts — and they will be forever special to you."

She also requests prayer for her family, especially Bryon's wife Tiffany and their two young boys, as the trauma of Bryon's death continues to be overwhelming.

Pastor Dorothy says that even for her, Bryon's death still seems surreal. However, the church has bonded together to pray, provide meals, send cards, and just spend time listening to and loving on the Dicksons. "All of us were shocked when we first heard the news," Dorothy says. "But I think the biggest thing [the church has done] is that they have just been there and helped when needed."

And for those who have friends who have lost a loved one in a tragedy, but are unsure how to be a comfort, Darla says for her, two things have ministered the most to her: prayers and the comforting presence of — and hugs from — friends.



Dan Van Veen

Dan Van Veen is news editor of AG News. Prior to transitioning to AG News in 2001, Van Veen served as managing editor of AG U.S. Missions American Horizon magazine for five years. He attends Central Assembly of God in Springfield, Missouri, where he and his wife, Lori, teach preschool Sunday School and 4- and 5-year-old Rainbows boys and girls on Wednesdays.