Gunfire rang out at the Boise Town Square Mall last Monday, fatally wounding a transgender woman working as a security guard. Authorities later identified the gunman as Jacob Bergquist, a 27-year-old Boise man. According to Police Chief Ryan Lee, authorities continue to search for a motive. Jo Acker, a 26-year-old trans security guard, attempted to disarm the gunman near a department store. After bravely charging the shooter, Acker died at the scene. Bergquist also killed Roberto Padilla Arguelles, 49, and injured four others. A subsequent shootout ensued; Bergquist later died from his wounds while in police custody. Acker never avoided impending danger. She had served in the military as a forward artillery observer and a paratrooper. Despite the seriousness of her job, her family spoke of a girl armed with witty jokes and snarky quips. Friends and family described Acker as nerdy. She loved video games like World of Warcraft. Acker had a three-year-old daughter named Everay. The family has set up a GoFundMe to support Acker’s family.
Acker’s sister, Shawna Lannigan, expressed her grief on Facebook.
“You always had such an enormous heart of gold,” Lannigan said of her sister.
“I always felt like your keeper. I always wanted to protect you and you always wanted to protect others.” Ray Dawn, Acker’s partner, publicly lamented her death. “She was confronting the suspect,” he told the Idaho Statesman. “She was helping people be safe and get out of the way and they shot at her.” The United States has the 28th highest rate of gun deaths at 4.43 per 100,000 people. Other wealthy nations pale in comparison. Japan has just .04 gun deaths per 100,000 people, according to a 2017 study.
A separate study found that Ada county, where Boise is located, has a rate of 12.5 gun deaths per 100,000. Gun deaths have steadily risen since the 1990s. This disquieting upward trend has disproportionately impacted LGBT people. Another 2017 study found that gun deaths comprise nearly 60% of bias-motivated homicides of LGBT people. Trans women, particularly trans women of color, are more vulnerable to such violence.
Of course, Jo Acker’s life can’t be reduced to statistics. She was a daughter, a sibling, a partner and a mom. Her sister concluded the Facebook post with this: “you were and are and always will be a hero."