“Yap’s spirit was broken by this senseless and heinous act,” state governor Henry Falan said in a video message in response to the shooting death of government lawyer Rachelle Bergeron on Monday.
Bergeron, Yap’s acting attorney general, was shot by a still unidentified gunman around 7 p.m. upon returning home from her daily run with her dog, the governor said.
Bergeron’s husband, Simon Hammerling, who was home at the time, rushed her to the Yap State Hospital, where she died.
“Today I come to you as a very sad man,” Falan said. “Today marks a tragic day in our history. We are under the watchful eye of the world.”
The homicide came as a shock to the island state, which has a population of 11,300.
“As governor of Yap, I promise to do everything within my power so that justice prevails,” Falan said, “and to restore civility to our society.”
The U.S. Embassy in Kolonia announced the cancellation of a state-sponsored concert by an Atlanta band, which was to be held in Yap on Friday. “We regret to inform the people of Yap State that the visit to Yap by the band Kazual has been cancelled due to unforeseen circumstances,” reads the announcement posted on Facebook.
Richard Clark, spokesperson for FSM President David Panuelo, earlier said the FBI and FSM Department of Justice are coordinating efforts with the state of Yap “to complete a thorough investigation."
In a Facebook post, Bergeron’s friend Amos Heidi Collins wrote that Bergeron "was shot and killed outside their home last night. 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."
Bergeron and Hammerling, a pilot with the Pacific Mission Aviation, got married on Oct. 25, 2018. "They were getting ready to celebrate their one year wedding anniversary," Collins wrote. "Thank you to everyone who came to the hospital to grieve with Simon and support him last night. Please pray and send him your love; he is dealing with the unimaginable loss of his wife and best friend, and for Rachelle’s family too. "
The couple’s friends have set up a GoFundMe account to raise funds for funeral expenses. “Simon will need significant funds to cover funeral costs and to cover travel costs to the United States where Rachelle will be laid to rest,” the fundraising team wrote.
Bergeron arrived in Yap on Aug. 11, 2015 and became the newest member of the Office of the Attorney General. Bergeron had practiced law for the past five years, with experience in litigation in Washington, D.C. and human trafficking outreach/human rights advocacy in New York City and India. She is also a member of the New York State Bar.
A 2015 press release from OAG upon her arrival in Yap, Bergeron had "been engaged so far with reviewing contracts for offices such as the Department of Health Services, providing humanitarian assistance and doing legal research for the asylum seekers currently in Yap, as well as taking several criminal cases at the Yap State Court."
Based on her LinkedIn profile, Bergeron was connected with Sanctuary for Families between 2013 and 2014. Her tasks included creating and conducting a youth outreach program focused on identifying potential sex trafficking clients, including developing and presenting know your rights workshops and holding legal clinics. She also provided representation, advocacy and case management to victims of sex trafficking. She also worked as legal consultant for International Justice Mission between 2011 and 2013.
Rachelle Bergeron with husband Simon Hammering.
Photo courtesy of Facebook.
Click here to subscribe to our digital edition