Acting Attorney-General Rachelle Bergeron shot dead in Yap state

15 October 2019

The death of Yap state's acting attorney general has been confirmed by the Federated States of Micronesia government.

Police have opened a homicide investigation after Rachelle Bergeron was shot dead on Monday night, October 14, 2019.

Police suspect a single shooter was behind the the US citizen's death.

The national government has confirmed the US citizen's death.

"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," it said in a statement.

"We will disseminate information as it becomes publicly available."

Earlier today, police said Rachelle Bergeron was shot Monday night at about 7 or 8pm.

A motive was unclear, with police investigations ongoing, spokesperson Ryan Fratmag said.

"They are working on the case right now."

Ms Bergeron first arrived in Yap from the US in 2015, taking up the position of assistant attorney general before being promoted to acting attorney general in January.


  • October 15, 2019

    A former Big Apple human rights lawyer was shot and killed on the tiny Pacific island where she was the acting attorney general — with friends saying Tuesday that she was planning to return soon to the US.

    Rachelle Bergeron, 33, had just returned home from her daily jog Monday on the island of Yap when she was shot in the chest and leg — with her dog also being shot dead, officials said.

    Her husband, Simon Haemmerling — whom she wed almost a year ago — was inside the home baking brownies and raced out at the sound of three gunshots, according to a friend, Amos Collins.

    A nurse used a blanket to help move her unconscious body onto her husband’s flatbed truck and she was raced to Yap Memorial Hospital, Collins said. She was pronounced dead on arrival, local official Constantine Yowbalaw confirmed to the Pacific Daily News.

    The FBI is sending a team to help the investigation, bureau spokesperson Michelle Ernst told the paper Tuesday.

    The killing of the chief prosecutor has shocked the tiny island of just 11,000 people, with Gov. Henry Falan using a Facebook video to announce the “tragic day in our history.”

    “Yap’s spirit is broken by this senseless and heinous act,” Falan said, addressing the “darkness” for the island and offering “our united, heart-felt condolences” to Bergeron’s loved ones.

    “Her loss will be greatly felt by all who knew her.”

    Collins also posted about the “unimaginable loss,” writing, “Everyone is in shock; it all happened so fast.”

    Bergeron was from Wisconsin and first moved to Yap in 2015, with the government proudly touting her time working human rights cases in both Washington, DC, and New York.

    She is still a member of the New York State Bar, records show, and had been working in Manhattan until shortly before she left for Yap. The island is nearly 4,500 miles west of Hawaii.

    While in New York, Bergeron had set up a youth outreach program focused on identifying potential sex trafficking clients for Sanctuary for Families, according to her LinkedIn, also offering legal advice to sex trafficking victims.

    She was also a legal intern in the city for several months with the World Intellectual Property Organization in 2010.

    A friend, Julie Hartup, said that Bergeron was hoping to soon start a family — and was eager to return to the US.

    Hartup said it was hard to believe what had happened to her friend.

    “She had a fun laugh; she loved her dogs; she loved going running; she really cared about the community,” Hartup said of her friend.

    “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.”
  • Please keep us updated. Although this comment may not be appreciated by the investigators; would anyone care to share a possible motive?
    Do you believe the actor is still on Yap? The airport keeps records but if you noted any sailings of note please share both publicly and with the authorities; there is less chance in might be overlooked.
    When the Wa'ab authorities come for the actor I am confident they will not be unarmed and dressed in jogging cloths.
  • There is no more honorable way to die than at the hands of evil men who fear your truth; and no greater dishonorable act than to stand silent in view of injustice.
  • American Prosecutor Gunned Down On Small Island Feared For Her Own Safety, Reportedly Slept With Machete Under Bed
    Rachelle Bergeron sitting at a desk after taking on her new role as assistant attorney general of Yap State, on the Federated States of Micronesia. Photo: Yap State Government/AP

    “She was a target,” a friend of slain prosecutor Rachelle Bergeron said. “She had to deal with a lot of the worst things.”

    Those who knew Rachelle Bergeron, 33, described her as a tireless advocate against human trafficking who had become the “target” of dangerous enemies before she died, according to The New York Post.

    Bergeron was gunned down outside her home on the tropical Pacific island of Yap last week after returning home from a run with her dog, who she often took along for protection. However, both Bergeron and her dog were killed by the gunfire.

    Bergeron—who had worked as a human rights lawyer in New York and India before accepting a position as the assistant attorney general on Yap in 2015—had long been an advocate against human trafficking and had been trying to end the child-sex trade in Yap, one of four islands that make up the Federated States of Micronesia.

    On the island, girls as young as 12 were forced into sex work servicing seamen on ships in the small island’s harbors, the paper reports. Bergeron had allegedly not only taken aim at those involved in the sex trade industry but had also spoken out against government officials for their failure to take action on human rights issues.

    Her friend Amos Collins told ABC News he believed Bergeron had the “most dangerous job” on the island.

    “I think we’re all in the same boat together, that we want this person to be caught and brought to justice,” he said.

    Constantine Yowbalaw, the director of civic affairs for the Yap State government, described his former coworker as a fearless crusader for what she believed in.

    “She was a very straightforward proponent of especially marginalized groups, so very, a very big advocate of human rights and she’s been fighting for individuals and communities for a long time here in Yap,” he told KUAM News.

    Her death, he said, has been a tremendous shock to a community, especially because firearms are outlawed on the small island.

    "It's a small community. Something like this doesn't usually happen," he said.

    Life on the island had been a vast contrast to the United States, where Bergeron had grown up.

    Many on the island adhered to a strict set of ancient rules that often found women charged with tasks such as cooking and gardening while many of the men worked as fisherman. Women were also often the subject of criticism and speculation if they went to a man’s home unaccompanied, The Post reports.

    While serving as the assistant attorney general, Bergeron had been vocal about her disapproval of how the island had treated 34 Nepalese and Indian immigrants who had landed on the island as a debate about what to do with the men broke out among federal immigration authorities.

    The men were detained for a year and half and kept in difficult conditions—forced to live in makeshift lean-tos with only meager food rations from the government. They had no running water or toilets and were kept in isolation, unable to communicate with others.

    Bergeron told the “Cook Islands News” in August 2016 that she didn’t believe the situation had been “handled very well.”

    “So there were no sorts of checks and balances to ensure whether or not the men were provided with adequate food, what their shelter situation was like, if they needed access to medical care,” she said at the time.

    She also publicly criticized the national government for detaining the men illegally and not providing them with legal counsel, The Post reports.

    Bergeron had also been involved in a state-wide effort to end sex trafficking—including a case against two men that was taken all the way to the country’s Supreme Court earlier this year.

    The case involved two men: William Chunn, a local taxi driver hired to recruit minor girls and transport them to have sex with sailors and Joseph Parisi, a man with citizenship in both the U.S. and Italy who was accused for paying for sex with the minor girls.

    Parisi is on the run after he violated conditions of his bail, the news outlet reports.

    Those who knew Bergeron, who was promoted to serve as acting attorney general on the island earlier this year, believe the nature of her work may have made her a target for some in the area.

    “She was a target,” Collins said. “She had to deal with a lot of the worst things.”

    Bergeron even slept with a machete under her pillow as the nature of her work made her fear for her safety, according to The Post.

    But despite the dangers surrounding her work, Bergeron had also created a happy life for herself on the island, which is about 500 miles southwest of Guam. When she died, she was about to celebrate her one-year wedding anniversary with her pilot husband, Simon Hammerling.

    Hammerling had been at home baking brownies with a local girl the couple was helping to care for when the shots rang out the evening of Oct. 14.

    "I just kind of fell by her, not really thinking about anything else," Hammerling told ABC News of finding his wife outside. "She was just crouched over and breathing really heavy."

    Hammerling and Collins, who arrived a short time later, transported Bergeron to a local hospital, but she succumbed to her injuries.

    The FBI is assisting in the investigation into who may have killed the 33-year-old. No arrests have been made yet in the shooting.
  • My condolence to her family.Great respect for Mrs.Bergeron.Rest in peace.She loved the Islands and the native's culture from what I've read.Truly tragic.I hope the bastards who done this gets justice.

    Isn't the state of Yap harsh on guns? The laws there are strictly against them.Only officers and military Can possesses such weaponry.To others its illegal.I'm not entirely sure but that's what I've heard from friends.
  • Are there any updates ?
  • Oct. 24, 2019

    No arrests have been made, but officials said several people of interest were identified in the recent murder of Yap acting Attorney General Rachelle Bergeron.

    A big crowd came out Tuesday afternoon to pay tribute to Bergeron at her memorial service, Yap Department of Youth and Civic Affairs Director Constantine Yowbalaw said.

    "She advocated for a lot of issues here and she worked tirelessly. But I cannot speak about the specific cases she was working on that may be related to the case," Yowbalaw said by phone.

    At the memorial service, Yowbalaw said, there was an outpouring of emotion, support and love for the late acting attorney general.

    "The whole island is mourning," he said. "It was quite hard to put into words the loss felt by the community."

    Yap Gov. Henry S. Falan on Monday reported that the government has completed the initial phase of the investigation and several people of interest have been identified. The FBI is helping with the local investigation.

    "As they work in a coordinated and orderly manner toward the next phase of concluding the investigation with an arrest and, ultimately, a conviction, we would like to thank the community and citizens of Yap for your contributions to the investigation, cooperation with the authorities and your prayers," Falan said.

    The Yap governor also thanked the investigating team, which consists of local authorities and external partners "for their hard work, seamless collaboration, and unrelenting 24/7 teamwork."

    An online crowdfunding campaign on GoFundMe for Bergeron's funeral costs has raised more than $30,000 so far.

    Joe Adams, who's a friend of Bergeron's husband, said it's humbling to see the generous outpouring of kind words and funds for the Bergeron family.

    Bergeron's father, Thomas, said he was in shock after learning of Bergeron’s death.

    "She was very loving and cared about people, and was a good person to have on your team," he said in a USA Today report. "She was very courageous. She loved to defend those who were mistreated and was willing to take a stand for them."

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