News, Culture & Society

US lawyer is shot and killed in a drive-by while running with her dog on a tiny island in Micronesia

An American attorney prosecuting criminals on the pacific nation of Micronesia was killed on Monday evening in a drive-by-shooting as she returned from a run with her dog.

Rachelle Bergeron was shot three times at 7:30pm yesterday while she was stood outside of her home on the island of Yap, fetching something from the trunk of her car.

Bergeron’s husband, Simon Hammerling, was inside the couple’s home baking brownies with a local child the pair were helping to take care of when he heard the shots ring out.

He rushed outside to find his wife unconscious on the ground with gunshot wounds to her upper leg and upper chest. 

Paramedics raced to the scene to transport Bergeron to Yap Memorial Hospital but she was pronounced dead on arrival. 

Rachelle Bergeron was shot three times at 7:30pm yesterday while she was stood outside of her home on the island of Yap, fetching something from the trunk of her car

Bergeron’s husband, Simon Hammerling, was inside the couple’s home baking brownies with a local child the pair were helping to take care of when he heard the three shots ring out

Authorities say they’re investigating the crime but haven’t yet arrested any suspects.

It’s believed the attorney was shot at close range by a single gunman. 

‘There were exit wounds, a lot in her back,’ Yap Memorial State Hospital medical chief of staff Bodunrin Mandela told ABC News.

‘In total there were 21 bullet holes … maybe there was a shotgun,’ he theorized.

FBI Agents will now fly to the Federal States of Micronesia to assist in the investigation Bergeron’s murder, who was acting as the Attorney General of Yap State. 

The killing has shocked the tiny island of Yap, home to just 11,000 people. 

In a statement, Governor of the state of Yap, Henry S. Falan, said the island’s ‘spirit is broken’ by the news of Bergeron’s death. 

‘Today marks a tragic day in our history. We are under the watchful eyes of the world. It is with great sadness that I report the death of Yap’s acting attorney general, Rachelle Bergeron,’ Falan said.

‘On behalf of all the citizens of Yap, both here and abroad, I offer our united heartfelt condolences to her husband, her family and friends, and colleagues. Her loss will be greatly felt by all who knew her. 

‘Yap’s spirit is broken by this senseless and heinous act.’

Bergeron had been shot in her upper leg and her upper chest and was unconscious, Collins. He and a nurse used a blanket to move Bergeron onto his flatbed truck and they drove to the hospital

Bergeron had been shot in her upper leg and her upper chest and was unconscious, Collins. He and a nurse used a blanket to move Bergeron onto his flatbed truck and they drove to the hospital

Paramedics raced to the scene to transport Bergeron to Yap Memorial Hospital (above) but she was pronounced dead on arrival

Paramedics raced to the scene to transport Bergeron to Yap Memorial Hospital (above) but she was pronounced dead on arrival

Bergeron was from Wisconsin and first moved to Yap (above) in 2015 to take a job as assistant attorney general. She had previously worked in Washington, New York and India

Bergeron was from Wisconsin and first moved to Yap (above) in 2015 to take a job as assistant attorney general. She had previously worked in Washington, New York and India 

Bergeron was from Wisconsin and first moved to Yap in 2015 to take a job as assistant attorney general. She had previously worked in Washington, New York and India.

Both she and Hammerling were just days away from celebrating their first wedding anniversary together when she was killed.

The Federated States of Micronesia, located about three-quarters of the way from Hawaii to Indonesia, has close ties with the U.S. under a compact of free association, and the U.S. dollar is its primary currency.

According to a US Department of State 2019 Crime and Safety report, serious or violent crimes in Micronesia are incredibly rare, however there are regular reports of petty crimes against travelers. 

Collins said Bergeron’s husband called him a few minutes after the shooting at 7:15 pm and he arrived about the same time as the police.

Bergeron had been shot in her upper leg and her upper chest and was unconscious, Collins said. He and a nurse used a blanket to move Bergeron onto his flatbed truck and they drove to the hospital. 

Collins said that he doesn’t know who shot Bergeron but that some of those she had prosecuted might hold grudges. He said he considers Yap a safe place and doesn’t lock his car or worry when walking at night.

He said Bergeron had a passion for fighting for justice for those who had been abused, especially women and children. Her husband is a pilot with Pacific Mission Aviation, a Christian missionary organization in the region where Collins also works.

Another friend, Julie Hartup, who lives in nearby Guam, said the couple were hoping to start a family soon.

Both she and Hammerling were just days away from celebrating their first wedding anniversary together when she was killed

Both she and Hammerling were just days away from celebrating their first wedding anniversary together when she was killed 

According to a US Department of State 2019 Crime and Safety report , serious or violent crimes in Micronesia are incredibly rare, however there are regular reports of petty crimes against travelers

According to a US Department of State 2019 Crime and Safety report , serious or violent crimes in Micronesia are incredibly rare, however there are regular reports of petty crimes against travelers

She said she had joined the couple and their families in July for a celebration of their marriage, when they retook their vows. She said Bergeron’s father gave a speech about how his daughter had always wanted to be a voice for the voiceless, and to give strength to those who didn’t have it.

‘Her family came out for a couple of weeks, and she was showing them the island, how pretty it was,’ Hartup said. ‘It was quite joyous for everyone.’

But she said Bergeron was feeling the strain of her new role, which she had taken on in January, and was eager to return home.

Hartup said it was hard to believe what had happened to her friend.

‘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.’

A GoFundMe has been set up by Bergeron’s family to help with funeral costs. 

‘We grieve with Simon in his terrible loss and pray that he will have strength through the loss of his best friend and the person that had brought him so much joy and true happiness,’ organizer of the fund, Joe Adams, wrote. 

Read more at DailyMail.co.uk


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