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    Wednesday, November 20, 2019-2:43:04A.M.

     

     

     

     

     

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Regional News

‘She was fearless’: Friends remember slain Yap acting AG

HAGÅTÑA (The Guam Daily Post) — An island is in shock as many grieve over the deadly shooting of Yap state’s acting Attorney General Rachelle Bergeron.

Public safety officials in the FSM state of Yap said on Wednesday they are in the preliminary stages of the investigation, according to Constantine Yowbalaw, the director of youth and civic affairs for Yap in the Federated States of Micronesia.

Click to enlarge
Yap State’s acting Attorney General Rachelle Bergeron and her husband Simon Haemmerling are shown in this undated photo. Photo courtesy of the GoFundMe page to raise funds to send the American attorney’s remains back to the United States.

“The governor is committed to making sure we conduct the investigation effectively and as complete as possible, to make sure we find justice for the victim,” said Yowbalaw. “She lived amongst colleagues and other homes with Cabinet members.”

Yap Gov. Henry Falan said Bergeron had just finished her daily jog when she was killed by gunfire.

A native of Wisconsin, Bergeron was shot multiple times.

The FSM national government on Tuesday confirmed the FBI was helping with the investigation.

Possible suspect

The FBI has finished analyzing the crime scene and has a good idea who shot Bergeron, said Julie Hartup, a marine biologist who lives on Guam and knew the victim.

“This is unfathomable for the locals there. It’s just so shocking. This kind of thing never happens there,” she said.

Hartup said she got to know Bergeron and her husband, Simon Haemmerling, on a more personal level in the last couple of years as she traveled to Yap every few months for research.

“She was really someone I looked up to. I was just blown away by her dedication. She had this kind of inner strength. She definitely wanted to be the voice for those who didn’t have one.”

As Bergeron took on additional responsibilities when she became acting AG, Hartup noticed her friend became more stressed out.

Understanding the job could be isolating, Hartup said her friend remained a professional and would never talk about her cases, only occasionally saying she’d had a tough week. “But she would still laugh and smile when we saw her.”

Hartup said Bergeron and her husband would have celebrated their first anniversary at the end of the month and were preparing to leave Yap and relocate back to the mainland U.S.

“You could tell how much they loved each other,” Hartup said.

Hartup said Bergeron had gone running as she normally did with her dog. Her husband was at home waiting for his wife to return.

He heard gunshots and went to look for her. A neighbor found Bergeron, Hartup said.

Haemmerling then called 911 and he and others rushed his wife to Yap state hospital, but she didn’t survive.

‘Yap’s spirit is broken’

“Yap’s spirit is broken by this senseless and heinous act,” Governor Falan said.

According to Yap State Government Public Information Service, Bergeron was hired as an assistant AG in Yap in August 2015. She was promoted to acting AG in January.

Many are remembering the years they spent working alongside Bergeron.

“She was fearless, hardworking, and very energetic,” said Yowbalaw. “It’s a small island community. We are all very saddened by it.”

He said others have also stepped up to help Bergeron’s husband.

“We are distraught as is all of the many friends and family here and abroad,” he said. “It’s a very trying time. A very hard time.”

Bergeron was the legal counsel for multiple government agencies, including the local health department, said Dr. Aileen Tareg, its director.

“It’s really devastating and we will miss her a lot,” said Tareg. “Rachelle was very passionate about her work. She was an advocate for all kinds of victims. I really believe that everything she did was out of passion. She knew her work was very controversial. This island is very tiny and it’s easy to step on toes. Just knowing her and what she stood for, she always followed what she thought was right.”

Yap government officials say it’s too soon to say if the killing was a random act of violence or if Bergeron was a target in the shooting.

Joe Adams, a friend of the family, has organized a donation page on gofundme.com to help raise money for Bergeron’s family.

“Though the government is covering costs for repatriation of Rachelle’s body, Rachelle’s family and Simon will need significant funds to cover funeral costs and travel costs to the United States where Rachelle will be laid to rest. Please join me in making it so Simon does not have to worry about finances when he is bearing so much weight of grief,” Adams states on the website.

The goal to cover her funeral costs was set at $20,000. The site raised $22,472 by Wednesday night. More than 200 people had donated.