Aug. 2015, photo posted on Facebook shows Rachelle
Bergeron sitting a desk after taking on her new role
as assistant attorney general of Yap State, on the
Federated States of Micronesia. Bergeron was shot
and killed outside her home on Yap on Oct. 14, 2019.
WELLINGTON, New Zealand —
Friends said Tuesday that lawyer Rachelle Bergeron planned
to soon return to the U.S. after a challenging stint
prosecuting criminals on the Pacific nation of Micronesia,
but she was shot and killed as she returned home from a
run with her dog.
Bergeron's husband was
inside the couple's house Monday night baking brownies
with a local child the couple was helping care for when
somebody fired three shots at Bergeron as she pulled up
and opened the back of her Subaru hatchback, killing both
her and her dog, said one friend, Amos Collins.
The killing has shocked the
tiny island of Yap, home to 11,000 people, where Bergeron
served as acting attorney general of Yap State.
Authorities say they're investigating the crime but
haven't yet arrested any suspects.
"Yap's spirit is
broken and our pride and reputation is tarnished,"
Constantine Yowbalaw, the director of youth and civic
affairs for Yap State, said in a statement.
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
D.C., New York and India.
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
Collins said Bergeron's
husband Simon Hammerling called him a few minutes after
the shooting at 7:15 p.m. 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
Yowbalaw said Bergeron was
pronounced dead on arrival at Yap Memorial 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 about at night.
The Small Arms Survey, a
Swiss nonprofit that analyzes gun ownership statistics,
estimates there are 700 guns total owned by the civilian
population of Micronesia, which numbers 104,000 people.
Collins 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
Another friend, Julie
Hartup, who lives in nearby Guam, said the couple was
about to celebrate their one-year wedding anniversary and
hoped to start a family soon.
She said she had joined the
couple and their families in July for a celebration of
their marriage, when they re-took 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