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American Who Was Serving As Attorney General On A Small Pacific Island Is Gunned Down Outside Her Home
“She loved to defend those who were mistreated and was willing to take a stand for them," Rachelle Bergeron's father said of her dedication to helping others before she was killed on the island of Yap.
An American attorney who was serving as the attorney general of the small island state of Yap in the Pacific was shot and killed outside her home Monday night after returning home from a run with her dog.
Rachelle Bergeron’s husband had been inside the home baking brownies with a young child the couple helped care for when he heard the gunfire and rushed outside to find his wife and her dog had been shot, the Associated Press reports.
Bergeron had reportedly just returned from a run and had been opening the back of her Subaru hatchback when the gunfire rang out, her friend Amos Collins told the news outlet. She was shot in the upper leg and upper chest, Collins said.
Collins and others—including Simon Hammerling, Bergeron’s husband of nearly a year—used a blanket to move Bergeron into the bed of a truck. They rushed her to a local hospital, but she was pronounced dead on arrival.
Bergeron, who had previously worked in New York, Washington, D.C. and India, had moved to the Pacific island of Yap in 2015 and had been named the acting attorney general of Yap State—home to approximately 11,000 people—earlier this year after first serving as the assistant attorney general, The Pacific Daily News reports.
Yap Department of Youth and Civic Affairs Director Constantine Yowbalaw confirmed Bergeron’s death Tuesday morning.
“Yap's community and spirit is broken," she said. "Yap's pride and reputation is tarnished."
A motive in the shooting has not been announced, but Collins told the AP that he thought maybe someone she had prosecuted on the small island had held a grudge against her.
The 33-year-old had been about a week away from celebrating her first anniversary with Hammerling, who works as a pilot with Pacific Mission Aviation, a Christian missionary organization active in the area.
Her father Thomas Bergeron told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, that the couple had also been helping to care for two local girls on the island, Deesha, 12, and Heydee, 6, when she was killed.
“She really loved those girls and invested in them like they were her own kids,” he said. “They were a big part of her life there.”
Thomas described his daughter as a “very loving” and caring individual who had actively supported human rights.
“She was very courageous,” he said. “She loved to defend those who were mistreated and was willing to take a stand for them.”
Bergeron grew up in Wisconsin and attended the University of Florida’s Fredric G. Levin College of Law. Her father said she and her husband were planning to return to the United States and move to Wyoming.
Her friend Julie Hartup told the AP the couple wanted to start a family soon.
“She had a fun laugh; she loved her dogs; she loved going running; she really cared about the community,” Hartup said. “She was trying her hardest to do the best job she could, and ultimately somebody took her life for being so good at her job.”
Authorities in Yap—which is an island in the Federated States of Micronesia about three-quarters of the way between Hawaii and Indonesia—has brought in the FBI to assist with the investigation.
"Our prayers are with her family, friends and community here and abroad,” Yowbalaw said of Bergeron.