“I have forgiven Michael Dunn,” Lucy McBath says when questioned about the man who murdered her son, Jordan. “I’ve had to forgive him.”
When I asked her why she “had” to forgive Dunn, McBath said that “I cannot call myself a Christian [….] if I am not willing to forgive.” She continued to say that forgiveness “frees me” and that in all situations Christians should “try to be a vehicle for love.”
Few situations imaginable could challenge such an outlook like the one McBath faced when Dunn sprayed bullets into a car at a Florida gas station where four teens were playing loud music. Dunn claimed at trial that one of the youths verbally threatened him and brandished a gun, citing Florida’s controversial “Stand Your Ground” law. Although no gun was found and Dunn’s (then) fiancée testified that he did not mention seeing one throughout their conversations that evening.
Dunn’s trial is the focus of 3 ½ Minutes, 10 Bullets, playing theatrically in New York and scheduled to air on HBO this November.
McBath appears prominently in the documentary, along with Jordan’s father, Ron Davis. “He [was] our miracle child,” she says. The film relates McBath’s history of miscarriages and her doubts about whether or not she and Ron could conceive. She also cited two bouts with breast cancer as contributing to her having “had to burrow through a lot of pain.”
Through that pain, McBath insists that “I have received tenfold” for everything that has been taken from her and that “everything that has happened has been for a greater good.” As to what that good might be, she said she hoped her son’s death would help contribute to a movement to “stem the tide of gun violence” in this country and that her words and ministry might help other families dealing with tragedies “without faith” come to know God and seek His purpose in their lives. Her central message to others experiencing tragic loss? “Never let anything impede what God has given us to do.”
In the film, Dunn chillingly invokes such rhetoric himself, insisting on a taped phone call with his fiancée that “I’m the fucking victim here” and comparing himself to a rape victim that is excoriated for wearing revealing clothing. In one recorded call he states his belief that all things happen for a reason and that he cannot conceive that the reason would be for him to end up in prison. “I’m not racist, they’re racist” he insists, claiming that the teens were “freaking out” because he “dared” to ask them to turn down the music in their car.
While 3 ½ Bullets, 10 Minutes juxtaposes Dunn’s insistence that his trial is happening for “a reason” with Lucia praying in church, McBath sees little similarity in their respective outlooks on life. “[His rhetoric] was not from God,” she said in our interview, continuing that “never once did I hear him allude to God.” Her sympathy, and her forgiveness is grounded in the belief that “the enemy resided within him” and that a worse hell than the hell of jail awaits for those who are not reconciled to God.
“I feel sorry for him,” she says simply.
3½ Minutes, 10 Bullets won a Special Jury Award for Social Impact at the Sundance Film Festival and was given an Audience Award for Best Documentary at the 2015 RiverRun Film Festival