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The family of an American attorney who was gunned down outside her home Monday night while serving as the acting attorney general on the small island of Yap has called her job “dangerous,” as authorities continue to search for a motive behind the shooting.
Rachelle Bergeron — who had practiced law in New York, Washington D.C., and India before moving to Yap in 2015 — was fatally shot in the chest and leg Monday night just as she was getting home from her nightly run.
She had been opening the back hatch of her car to let her dog out when the gunfire began. One of her dogs was also killed, ABC News reports.
“She did have a dangerous job,” her sister Nicole Stone told The New York Post, adding that the family had been warned not to make any public speculation about the case until they returned from Yap with Bergeron’s body.
Stone described her sister as dedicated to her job and committed to helping those in need, even referencing a case her sister worked on in 2016 that involved two dozen migrants who had been detained on the small Pacific island.
“She was extremely passionate about securing better conditions for these migrants that ended up on Yap,” her sister said Wednesday.
Bergeron’s husband of nearly a year, Simon Hammerling, echoed the same sentiments to ABC News, calling his wife “bubbly” and “strong.”
“I loved her very much,” he said. “I miss her already.”
Hammerling had been at the couple’s home making brownies with a young girl in the community they help care for,when he said he heard the gunfire around 7 p.m. Monday night and ran out to check on his wife.
“I just kind of fell by her, not really thinking about anything else,” he told ABC News. “She was just crouched over and breathing really heavy.”
The couple’s friend and Hammerling’s coworker Amos Collins quickly arrived on the scene as well along with local police.
“We made the decision there to take her to the hospital,” Collins told the news outlet. “We got a blanket under her and lifted her onto my flatbed.”
Bergeron was rushed to a local hospital where medical staff tried to revive the 33-year-old, but she succumbed to her injuries.
The death has sent shock waves through the small island of Yap, which is part of Federated States of Micronesia.
"Yap's spirit is broken by this senseless and heinous act," Yap State Gov. Henry Falan said Tuesday in a video statement, according to ABC News. "I promise to do everything in my power to have justice prevail."
The FBI has also been brought in to help with the investigation, the outlet reports.
Collins described the island as a safe community with a low overall crime rate. He said, however, that Bergeron had held the “most dangerous job” on the island.
“I think we're all in the same boat together, that we want this person to be caught and brought to justice,” he said.
Bergeron had worked to help victims of trafficking and abuse, but had been the subject of occasional threats from others who were angry about her decisions, those close to her said.
“She always had people that were giving her a hard time,” Hammerling told ABC News. “But there was always the other side because she really loved justice.”
Bergeron had been planning to celebrate her one-year wedding anniversary later this month with Hammerling, who is originally from Germany.
Shortly before she died, she told her family the couple was planning to move to the United States soon, The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports.
But they would never have the chance.
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