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Family and friends of hit-and-run, shooting victim speak out

Faith and forgiveness is the message family and friends said Merrill Rabus would want to be conveyed.
Published: Mar. 27, 2021 at 9:51 PM CDT
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WICHITA, Kan. (KWCH) - Update: Sunday afternoon, the family of Merrill Rabus gathered at 13th and Oliver where the 54-year-old died Friday for a vigil.

“I saw Merrill at his worst and then I saw him be at his best for a long time and he did it with a pure heart. He didn’t have an enemy. He loved people. He loved life and God gave him that,” said Rabus’s sister-in-law Mary Alice Burke.

For family, like sister-in-law Mary Alice Burke, they’re holding onto faith saying this isn’t a goodbye.

Burke said, I know where he is and I know I’m going to see him again.”

It’s that faith Burke said was the building blocks of Rabus’s life. Service to others was on constant display, especially for people experiencing homelessness and addiction after Rabus overcame similar challenges.

“He’s just a really, really good support system if anything was ever going on and a great guy in the community,” said step-daughter Melisha Oakleaf-Wilson.

“He lived it, he breathed it, he loved it. I watched that man get over 100 bicycles that were all broken up, nothing, just parts basically, and put bikes together for people who were on the streets that didn’t have any way to get to and from places other than walking. He would just give it to them. He would take the money he had earned for working a hard job and would buy the parts that that bike needed. Just giving them away.” Burke said, “He opened his home up to homeless people or people that needed a safe place to go. He didn’t care who you were or what you did. He wanted to help everybody, everybody.”

Sunday, Eyewitness News spoke with the family of Charity Blackmon. Blackmon’s mother saying her daughter suffered severe traumatic brain trauma a year ago after she was attacked. It’s led to her dealing with mental illness, which she has been trying to treat with professional help but that has been harder during the pandemic with her session primarily being done remotely.

For Rabus’s family, their response is the one Rabus would have wanted, for them to express forgiveness.

“It is not for me to judge. If she has problems, I hope that she can get some help because we don’t know what she went through that day. Something horrible could have happened. She could be traumatized by something, she could have a mental illness.” Burke said, “As a Christian, I have forgiven her. Who know, she could just really, seriously need some help. Yes, a life was taken. Yes, that life was very, very precious; more precious than anybody will even know. But we don’t know where she really was.”

It’s that example Rabus set Burke said she and so many others will follow because that’s what Rabus would want.

“As hard as it is as a human being to let something go forever and it’s something you really cherished and loved, even though there is a part of you that wants to hold on, no he’s mine, give him back to me, he wasn’t mine, he was God’s.” Burke said, “I see him smiling and dancing, singing to the Lord and it just brings him joy.”

A GoFundMe page has been set up for Merrill’s family to cover the funeral expenses. If you would like to donate, click here.

Wichita Police say 31-year-old Charity Blackmon hit 54-year-old Merrill Rabus with her car while he was riding his bicycle near 13th and Oliver, Friday afternoon. Investigators believe she got out of the car and shot Merrill. He died from his injuries.

Thanks to witnesses who followed Blackmon, police were able to arrest her on suspicion of first degree murder. Close friends of Merrill are speaking out. Travis Cox, who has known Merrill for more than a decade, shared just a few ways Merrill’s friends will remember him.

“He was an angel,” said Cox. “He helped the people he helped because that’s what he thought God wanted him to do.”

Dedicating his life to helping Wichita’s homeless and people struggling with addiction after overcoming battles of his own gave him the ability to connect with those communities in ways many others can’t.

“He would go right in and be one of them, and you could see that because he was one of them, he could talk to them in ways others could not,” Cox said.

While Merrill’s death is a tragedy, Cox says we should use it to learn a lesson from Merrill.

“This woman, Merrill would love her more than he loved the rest of us because he knew she needed the love more. Merrill would forgive her, this beautiful woman that really just needs someone to care for her. He would sit down and eat with her. He would forgive her, we probably should too,” said Cox.

A GoFundMe page has been set up for Merrill’s family. If you would like to donate, click here.

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