Tuesday, 29 Sep 2020

American Prosecutor Is Fatally Shot in Micronesia After Her Daily Run

When Rachelle Bergeron graduated from law school, she knew she wanted to help people who did not have a voice. That passion took her first to India, where she represented women and children who had been trafficked, and for the last four years to the Pacific nation of Micronesia, where she was the acting attorney general for Yap State.

It was in Yap, islands that 11,000 people call home, where Ms. Bergeron was shot three times outside her home on Monday night. She had just returned after a daily run with her dog. Her husband and a local child they were about to adopt were inside baking brownies.

Ms. Bergeron, 33, and her dog were killed.

“In her short but influential career Rachelle used her legal education to touch the lives of people across the globe,” Laura A. Rosenbury, dean of the University of Florida Levin College of Law, said in a statement on Wednesday. Ms. Bergeron graduated from the school in 2010.

No arrests have been made, but her killing is under investigation by the authorities in Micronesia and the F.B.I., which sent agents to Yap this week. The cases she worked on will most likely undergo additional scrutiny.

There are few guns and little crime in Yap, according to experts. English is the official language of Micronesia, which is about three-quarters of the way from Hawaii to Indonesia, and the American dollar is its main currency. The country has no armed forces, and the United States is responsible for its defense.

“The murder of a selfless American who came thousands of miles to live among and serve our people is beyond my ability to comprehend,” Gov. Henry S. Falan of Yap State said in a statement. “Her loss will be greatly felt by all who knew her. Yap’s spirit is broken by this senseless and heinous act.”

Ms. Bergeron, a native of Waukesha, Wis., was the oldest of four children. Her two brothers, sister and parents traveled to Yap in July to attend her wedding to Simon Haemmerling, a German who works as a pilot with Pacific Mission Aviation, a Christian missionary organization. The two had been married at a courthouse in Yap last October, her mother, Tammy Bergeron, said on Wednesday. About 250 Yapese attended the wedding, she added, pointing out that she was beloved by most local residents.

“Tom and I strongly believe that God creates us with a purpose,” Tammy Bergeron said, referring to her husband. “Rachelle did exactly what she was supposed to do with her life. She was brave and courageous. She was the only prosecutor on this island.”

Rachelle Bergeron was soon to leave Yap, her parents said, because of a job in Cheyenne, Wyo., that would have brought her back to the United States on Christmas Day with Mr. Haemmerling and a new member of the family.

On a recent morning, Ms. Bergeron had found a girl sleeping on their doorstep who asked for help in the local language, her mother said. Ms. Bergeron learned the girl was being abused by a parent, and after some time caring for her, she and Mr. Haemmerling were set to gain legal guardianship, her mother said. Ms. Bergeron’s parents said they remained hopeful that Mr. Haemmerling would be able to adopt the girl.

The Bergerons are flying to Yap, where a memorial service will be held next week. “We’ll go back as a family,” Tammy Bergeron said, “and let the people know that she loved them.”

Adeel Hassan is a reporter and editor on the National Desk. He is a founding member of Race/Related, and much of his work focuses on identity and discrimination. He started the Morning Briefing for NYT Now and was its inaugural writer. He also served as an editor on the International Desk.  @adeelnyt

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