Jo Acker: A Tribute to the Boise Mall Shooting Victim

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Jo Acker was identified as the mall security guard who was shot and killed in the Boise, Idaho, mall shooting. Acker, an Army veteran, was remembered as “always kind and loving,” and family members described Acker as a hero who died protecting others.

The active shooter who showed up at the mall was slowed down by two lines of defense: Acker, working as a guard, and a Boise police officer.

Police described a chaotic scene in which a Boise police officer confronted the suspect, and a gun battle erupted at the Boise Towne Square, a popular mall. Acker and the other victim, Robert Padilla Arguelles lost their lives and five people were wounded in addition to the suspect, named by police as Jacob Bergquist, 27, of Boise. The motive is still under investigation, but authorities say Bergquist showed up at the mall heavily armed and dressed all in black.

Acker was named by family members on social media. Friends wrote on Facebook that Acker identified as a transgender woman. Although some people who knew Acker identified her as Joseph Acker or Joe Acker, Acker preferred the name Jo. “plz call me Jo I am a trans female and if you don’t like it I really don’t care,” Acker wrote on her Facebook page.

Community members wrote that Acker was a hero. “I am a stranger to you and your family, I thank you for protecting others with your own life. We all owe you a debt of gratitude,” a woman wrote on Acker’s Facebook page.

1. Acker’s Sister Described Acker as Having an ‘Enormous Heart of Gold’

Acker’s sister wrote a moving tribute to Acker on Facebook.

“I can’t even put into words how completely devastated and shattered I am. Jo you were always kind and loving… you always had such an enormous heart of gold. I always felt like your keeper I always wanted to protect you and you always wanted to protect others. You were and are and always will be a hero. I love you to the ends of this earth and beyond. I will miss you until we meet again! Love always your big sister 😭💞💓💕,” she wrote on Facebook.

A friend wrote, “RIP Jo Acker it feels like we were just playing pool and swinging on the swings listening to music. You were always a great buddy to talk to. Biomat peeps will miss you ❤️”

“Jo had an awesome spirit and will definitely be missed. Rest easy my friend. 🙏,” wrote another person.

Ada County dispatch “began receiving calls about shots fired in the Boise Towne Square Mall on N. Milwaukee,” Boise police wrote in a news release.

“Callers indicated a white male adult, dressed in black, in possession of guns, had fired multiple shots inside of the building. Evidence indicates the suspect was contacted by a security officer on the first floor of the building near a department store on the west side of the building. The suspect shot the security officer who died at the scene. The suspect then fired multiple rounds inside the building, striking the glass escalator and a second victim who succumbed to his injures at the hospital. The suspect then continued through the mall, firing rounds into the floor resulting in injuries to two females. An additional male victim was taken in a private vehicle to a hospital and treated for injuries sustained during a fall while exiting the mall.”

According to police, around 1:50 p.m. on Monday, October 25, 2021, Boise Police officers “responded to a shots fired call at the mall on N. Milwaukee, with early reports that at least one person was shot. Minutes later, officers confronted an individual matching the description of the suspect outside of the mall. Gunfire was exchanged resulting in injury to both the suspect and an officer.”

The investigation “into a shooting that occurred inside and outside the Boise Towne Square Mall this afternoon remains under investigation by the Boise Police Department with assistance from state, local, and federal partners,” the Boise Police Department wrote in a news release.

“An exchange of gunfire between the suspect and officer will be investigated separately by the Critical Incident Task Force led by the Meridian Police Department.”

A woman wrote on Facebook, “I locked my store when I heard the shots and we stayed in our back room until we were evacuated by the police.”

On social media, people wrote that a security guard first approached the shooter, although the police have not confirmed that. “I believe the security officer approached the shooter just outside the entrance to Macy’s,” wrote one.

2. Acker, Who Identified as a Woman & Had Worked as a Lab Technician & Teacher, Was Called ‘an Absolute Hero’

Friends remembered Acker as an “absolute hero.”

“Jo Acker was an absolute hero and an exceptional person – but she was also a woman. The least EVERYONE can do to respect the dead is use her correct pronouns. Its not about you – its about her. Thats all im going to say today. You will be sorely missed my dear,” a friend wrote on Facebook.

People raised concern that Acker was being misgendered in stories and posts. “Its heartbreaking that it even needs to be said. She didnt deserve to die and she doesnt deserve to have her spirit torn down like that,” the friend wrote.

Acker listed the following positions on her Facebook page:

Lab Technician at Grifols Plasma
Former tech at Dave & Buster’s
Former Teacher at Yong-In Master Lee’s Taekwondo
Former Staff at Fandemonium
Former Busser at Dave & Buster’s
Went to Frank Church High School

Acker wrote that she lived in Boise and was from Colorado Springs, Colorado.

The panic at the scene was captured on video.

“Two people have been confirmed deceased as a result of their injuries,” police wrote in the news release.

“Five additional people were transported with injuries, including the suspect and a responding officer.”

According to police, the suspect acted alone. “Officers continued to respond to the scene and located multiple victims. Working in coordination with mall security protocols, officers worked to evacuate and clear the mall. The mall will remain closed as the investigation continues. At this time, we believe there was only a single shooter involved and there is no ongoing threat to the community at large,” they wrote.

3. Acker, Who Was Described as Introverted & Caring, Served in the U.S. Military

A photo emerged showing Acker in a military uniform. A friend, Kevin Goncalves, wrote, “Rip Jo Acker. It was an honor to know you and serve with you.”

On Facebook, Acker wrote, “Former Forward observer at U.S. Army.”

According to the Idaho Statesman, Acker “joined the Army after high school, and was a forward artillery observer and a paratrooper.” Kevin Goncalves told the Statesman that Acker was charged with “jumping out of planes and doing follow-up missions on the ground,” adding that they were also stationed in Latvia.

Goncalves told the Statesman that Acker was “introverted, a lover of video games, ‘an excellent runner’ and a caring person.”

The suspect is in critical condition,” police revealed. “The officer has been treated and released. No additional information will be released by the Boise Police Department about the other victims treated at the hospital.”

“We really cannot at this time speak to any motivation behind it,” Boise Police Chief Ryan Lee said in a news conference.

4. Acker’s Most Recent Visible Post on Facebook Refers to the Grim Reaper

Chillingly, Acker’s top visible post on Facebook was from August and was a graphic that read: “Grim reaper. Joseph, you will die from drinking too much water at 102 years old, and your last words will be: ‘Hand out stun guns at my funeral, the last person standing gets all of my stuff.’”

Acker wrote in the caption, “to old but I’m down for that funeral.”

Idaho Governor Brad Little wrote on Twitter, “Those injured in today’s unthinkable shooting at the Boise Towne Square Mall are in my prayers. The State of Idaho stands prepared to assist the Boise Police Department as they investigate the shooting.”

The police news release continued: ​“This was a traumatic experience for our community as a whole and our hearts go out to all the victims, witnesses, first responders, and those who have been impacted by today’s events,” said Boise Police Chief Ryan Lee. “We recognize the community has many questions and concerns. The Boise Police Department will work to make sure we get information out to the community as quickly as possible in conjunction with our investigators and prosecutors.”

“With the closure of the Boise Towne Square Mall, any individuals who need to retrieve items left in the mall will be able to do so tomorrow. Further information about this will be shared on BPD’s Twitter and Facebook. The scene is secure at this time and no one will be allowed in tonight.”

5. The Mall’s Page Declared People ‘Heart Broken,’ Calling the Shooting a ‘Terrible Tragedy’

Boise Towne Square wrote on Facebook, “We are heart broken and are working closely with the Boise Police Department as they investigate the circumstances that led to this terrible tragedy. We are grateful for their quick response and continued partnership. This is devastating for our entire community, and our thoughts are with the victims’ family and friends during this unimaginable time.”

The page added, “In observance and respect for our community our shopping center will be closed tomorrow. This is a developing investigation and we are directing all inquiries to the Boise Police Department.”

A woman wrote on the comment thread, “An extremely HUGE thank you to your staff members for doing their part in taking care of those involved. They did everything they could to help out and protect their customers. Everyone working in that area had better get the biggest bonus of their lives.”

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