‘Check in on each other’: Hundreds attend vigil at Boise mall to honor shooting victims
Ian Max Stevenson, Idaho Statesman
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BOISE (Idaho Statesman) — They signed posters. They left flowers. They sang. And they listened.
Perhaps most important, they talked about the unthinkable event that happened in their city this week and sought some comfort in each other, and heard that “it is OK to not be OK” right now.
Three days after a shooting at the Boise Towne Square mall left two people dead and injured at least five, hundreds of people gathered outside the shopping center Thursday evening to honor those who died, the surviving victims and everyone affected by the tragedy.
Outside the entrance by Old Chicago Pizza and Tap Room, around 300 people joined Boise’s mayor and other city leaders to light candles and pay tribute however they could, as the Boise Gay Men’s Chorus and the Boise Women’s Chorus sang “I Choose Love” and “What the World Needs Now Is Love.”
Mayor Lauren McLean, Boise Police Chief Ryan Lee, Boise Towne Center GM Jack Yejekwe and Jeff Downs, the regional manager of Professional Security Consultants, which provides guards for the mall, all spoke at the event — which focused on the two fatalities: Jo Acker, 26, of Caldwell, a mall security guard; and Roberto Padilla Arguelles, 49, of Rupert.
Both were killed on Monday when a shooter entered the mall and fired at least 18 rounds inside. Four people were injured by the assailant, including a police officer, and another person was hurt in a fall while fleeing the mall.
The shooter, identified by law enforcement and the Ada County coroner as Jacob Bergquist, engaged in a gunfight with police after exiting the mall and died Tuesday at a local hospital.
The mall reopened on Wednesday.
‘I cannot imagine the pain’ of victim’s family
Arguelles was a father of three children living in Rupert, east of Twin Falls, on a temporary work visa. He alternated between Rupert, where he lived with his brother, and Mexico, where his wife and children live. He was shopping for gifts for his children on Monday, friends said, and he planned to return home in two weeks.
Ricardo Gerardo Higuera, head of the Mexican Consulate in Boise, spoke at the vigil about Arguelles and said the Mexican government would work to have his remains returned to his home country.
“I cannot imagine the pain of the loved ones,” he said. “God bless Roberto, his family and everyone grieving his loss.”
‘She would stand up to anybody’
Jo Acker, a U.S. Army veteran and a security supervisor at the mall, was an introvert who might have been uncomfortable with strangers knowing her name, her partner told the Idaho Statesman. But she was also upbeat and lively with friends, and she stood up for what was right, said Ray Dawn, who lived with Acker in Caldwell.
“She hates bullies and she loved protecting people,” Dawn said.
As a security guard, Acker was in a position to check on people: “Hey, are you OK? How can I help you?” Dawn said. “You’re the security guard. You take care of people, it’s what you’re supposed to do.”
Dawn said Acker would have wanted to focus on the other victims of Monday’s shooting, but her friends gathered at the vigil to remember their “quirky” loved one, who leaves behind a 3-year-old daughter named Everay.
“She would stand up to anybody, any bully,” said B.C. Robbins, a friend of Acker’s. “She was a stalwart shield against evil, right up until the end.”
Acker liked to play video games, her friends have told the Statesman, and talk to her friends online.
“She was a weird gal who just played to the beat of her own drum,” said friend Duncan Ross. “She would never let you be down around her. If you were upset about something, she would always try to pump you up.”
Ross said he went with Acker and Dawn to see “Beetlejuice” at the Egyptian Theatre last Friday, where they had “a ball.”
“And then Monday, to just have them just — gone. It’s just horrible,” Ross said. “It’s a shame to lose somebody from violence.”
Ross said Acker would not want attention, but “would love that (the vigil) was about unity, and about peace and about community.”
‘It was terrifying’ inside Boise mall
Some people who came to Thursday’s vigil had been shopping or working at the mall on Monday.
Katie Muller, a manager at American Eagle, told the Statesman she hid in a back room of the store with her co-workers for 30-plus minutes while they waited to learn what happened. Seeing people outside the store running, the American Eagle staff had locked the store’s gate and barricaded themselves inside.
The backroom had an exit to the outside of the mall, but when Muller opened the door, she said a woman hiding behind a tree told them to go back in because there were “a lot of guns.”
When they were finally able to reach police dispatch on the phone, the dispatcher told them they could leave quickly, Muller said. Her boyfriend was waiting in the parking lot.
“Thank God that he was there, because I don’t think I would have been able to drive home,” she said. “It was terrifying.”
Trisha Miller said she was shopping in the home goods section of Macy’s when she heard the shots. People started running and yelling that there was a shooter, and she darted out of the store and into the parking lot.
“I just ran until I couldn’t run anymore,” she said. “It was pretty scary.”
Boise Mayor: ‘It is ok to not be ok’
Speaking at the vigil, McLean said it was important for the city to acknowledge what had happened.
“It’s incredibly important that we acknowledge the pain, the people that were needlessly lost, and the impact they had on our lives and community,” she said.
She pointed out that the city and state have resources for people who were at the mall on the day of the shooting, such as the 2-1-1 Idaho CareLine, which is operated by the Department of Health and Welfare.
“I am looking out and seeing so many of you that I know were here on Monday, and it is OK to not be OK,” McLean said. “It is incredibly important that we check in on each other.”