Rachelle Bergeron, the acting attorney general of Yap, was killed in a drive-by shooting on the night of October 14. The Wisconsin-native was 33 years old.
Bergeron’s death was confirmed in a statement from Yap State Governor Henry S. Falan. Governor Falan said that Bergeron had been shot as she returned home from a jog. Bergeron had been serving as the acting attorney general of Yap at the time of her death.
The governor said that the crime is still under investigation and that no arrests have been made. The Guam Daily Post reports that the FBI has joined the investigation into Bergeron’s death.
The state’s government said in a statement, “The State of Yap, with the assistance of the FSM Department of Justice and the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation, are coordinating efforts to complete a thorough investigation. We will disseminate information as it becomes publicly available.”
Yap is a small island in the Federated States of Micronesia that is home to about 11,000 people, located 280 miles northeast of Palau and 520 miles southwest of Guam in the Pacific Ocean.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Bergeron Was Shot in the ‘Upper Chest’ & a Doctor Speculated That a Shotgun Was Used
The Associated Press reports that Bergeron’s husband, Simon Hammerling, had been inside the couple’s home baking brownies when his wife was shot dead. The couple’s dog was also shot dead during the attack. The AP report says three shots were fired in the shooting. Bergeron had been shot in the upper leg and upper chest. Hammerling and a local nurse rushed his wife to a local hospital on a flatbed truck, the Associated Press reported. Multiple reports surrounding the shooting have said that authorities believe the shooter acted alone.
Yap Memorial State Hospital medical chief of staff Bodunrin Mandela told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation that Bergeron was dead on arrival. Mandela said, “It was too late already.” Mandela added, “There were exit wounds, a lot in her back. In total, there were 21 bullet holes… maybe there was a shotgun.”
2. A Friend Said Bergeron ‘Really Cared About the Community’
One of Bergeron’s friends, Amos Collins, told the Associated Press that some of the criminals that Bergeron had prosecuted may hold grudges. Collins said that Bergeron was passionate about the law, in particular, abuse victims notably women and children. Another friend, Julie Hartup, told the AP about her friend saying, “She had a fun laugh; she loved her dogs; she loved going running; she really cared about the community. 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.”
Amos Collins wrote in a Facebook post about the shooting, “Simon, his neighbor Kenya, and Amos rushed her to the hospital, but staff were unable to revive her. Everyone is in shock; it all happened so fast. Thank you to everyone who came to the hospital to grieve with Simon and support him last night.”
A job advertisement for the role of assistant attorney general in Yap offers a salary of $24,000 that increases to $28,000 after the candidate passes the local bar exam. Interested applicants were asked to contact Bergeron with their resume.
3. Bergeron Was a Licensed Rape Crisis Counsellor in New York City
In February 2016, Bergeron was featured in a Pacific Daily News article about the poor conditions that migrants to Yap were being forced to live in. Bergeron is listed as one of the lawyers who offer free legal assistance to U.S. citizens in Micronesia.
According to a Facebook post from the Yap State Government, Bergeron was first appointed to the role of attorney general in August 2015. Bergeron was sworn into the role on August 21, 2015. On her LinkedIn page, Bergeron had previously practiced law in India, New York City and Washington D.C. Between September 2013 and March 2014, Bergeron was an attorney for Sanctuary for Families, an anti-human trafficking charity. Prior to that, Bergeron worked in India for the International Justice Mission. Before that, Bergeron had worked as an associate for Zurich Financial Services.
Bergeron was a licensed rape crisis counselor in New York State. In 2010, Bergeron graduated from the University of Florida’s – Fredric G. Levin College of Law.
4. Bergeron’s Husband, Simon Hammerling, Is a Pilot for a Christian Missionary Group
Bergeron’s husband works as a pilot for Pacific Mission Aviation, a Christian missionary group. The couple married in 2018 and had recently renewed their vows, just prior to their one-year wedding anniversary. The Associated Press reports that Bergeron and Hammerling were planning to start a family shortly and were also planning to leave Yap.
According to the Pacific Mission Aviation’s website, Hammerling is a native of Germany and has been working in missionary work in Yap for more than 10 years. That profile says that Hammerling also works in providing music at the Pacific Mission’s churches and works in the prison ministry. The bio ends with the words, “Simon has found great joy and purpose in dedicating his life to serve the Lord as he ministers to the people of the Islands.”
5. A GoFundMe Page Has Been Set Up to Help Repatriate Bergeron’s Remains to the United States
A GoFundMe page has been set up by Bergeron’s friends in order to help cover the cost of repatriating her remains to the United States and for her funeral. The goal of the page is $20,000. Joe Adams, who set up the page, wrote in the description, “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.”
The page goes on to mention Hammerling’s faith in God and says that, “We have all benefitted from his good advice, his prayers and his care for us. Now it is time for us to return some of what he has given in a small way.” At the time of writing, the page has raised close to $7,000.