Just days after crash, father forgives man who struck, killed son in Lexington


Mark Strickland and his son, Jacob Strickland.

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LEXINGTON, N.C. -- Just days after 21-year-old Jacob Strickland was struck and killed by a car in Lexington, his father already has a message of forgiveness for the driver.

"From what I've heard, the driver's a young man," Mark said. "I don't want him to carry this guilt with him throughout the rest of his life. If I could tell him to take anything away from this, my message to him would be that he needs to try even harder to shine even brighter to honor my son."

Lexington police say Jacob was walking on South Salisbury Street when he was struck by a 1999 Toyota Camry. Strickland, a Lexington Senior High School 2013 graduate, was taken to Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center with serious injuries and died from those injuries on Jan. 11.

The driver of the Camry was not injured in the crash.

"Accidents happen," Mark said. "What happened after the accident is what touched me. [The driver] stood up like a man and took responsibility for an accident. He has my forgiveness. Now he needs to forgive himself."

Mark posted a message directed to the driver on his Facebook page, which has since been shared hundreds of times. The message is one of love and forgiveness.

"I have some words I want to say to ... the man driving the car that killed my son Jacob. I want you to know that I forgive you. I was told that when the accident happened that you stayed with my son, you called for help, and that you have cooperated with the investigation in every way. I want you to know that I don't blame you. Accidents happen and you stood up and took responsibility like a man. Don't carry guilt around for an accident that was nobody's fault. You are a young man and I don't want you to live with guilt. Jacob was a very bright man with a very bright future. If you want to honor Jacob, honor him by picking up the torch and living to your full potential. A bright shining light was taken from the world. Let your light shine all the brighter to help fill the darkness his departure left behind. Walk away from this knowing that you have my forgiveness, and pay it forward."

"I don't see any purpose at all in hatred," Mark said. "There is no positive outcome that can possibly come in hatred of somebody. I was raised in a Christian family. We were brought up to believe in forgiveness."

Mark said his son was out jogging when the accident happened. Jacob was training day and night, he said, to prepare for his June deployment in the U.S. Navy. He hopes his son will be remembered as witty, intelligent and hardworking.

His funeral services are scheduled for Friday.

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