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‘Always will be a hero’: Security guard killed in Boise mall shooting identified by family

·3 min read

Family members have identified one of the Boise Towne Square mall shooting victims as a 26-year-old mall security guard from Caldwell named Jo Acker.

On Monday afternoon, a man fired multiple shots at the mall. Police confirmed that two people died and four others were injured in the shooting. Officers later shot the suspect, Jacob Bergquist, 27, of Boise, who died Tuesday in a hospital, according to the Boise Police Department.

“Evidence indicates the suspect was contacted by a security officer on the first floor of the building near a department store on the west side of the building,” the Boise Police Department said in a statement Tuesday. “The suspect shot the security officer who died at the scene.”

That security guard was Acker.

“She was confronting the suspect. She was helping people be safe and get out of the way and they shot at her,” Ray Dawn, Acker’s partner of nearly three years, told the Idaho Statesman in a phone interview. “I was told she was helping people and saving them. ... I know she would have wanted to make everyone else safe. She would have been the first one to go down to confront somebody.”

Acker’s family shared their sadness on social media.

“I can’t even put into words how completely devastated and shattered I am,” Acker’s sister, Shawna Lannigan, wrote on Facebook. “Jo you were always kind and loving. You always had such an enormous heart of gold. I always felt like your keeper. I always wanted to protect you and you always wanted to protect others. You were and are and always will be a hero. I love you to the ends of this earth and beyond. I will miss you until we meet again!”

Jo Acker, killed in the shooting attack at Boise Towne Square mall on Monday.
Jo Acker, killed in the shooting attack at Boise Towne Square mall on Monday.

Both Lannigan and another sister, Tiffany Luna, paid tribute to Acker, with Luna calling the security guard “a hero” who “will be greatly missed,” and “the type of person that always wanted to help people.”

“Because of (Jo’s) heroics many lives were saved,” Luna wrote.

Dawn said Acker’s family’s words would have meant a lot to the fallen security guard. Acker spent a lot of time with her family and spoke to them often, Dawn said.

“She knew that she loved them and that they loved her,” Dawn said.

Dawn described Acker as “one of the strangest, quirkiest individuals I’ve ever known.” Dawn said Acker “talked like a ‘90s mom” using words like “goober,” and “adored” her two cats, Sebastian and Peridot, “more than anything in the world.” Acker “had the palate of a 10-year-old,” preferring foods like French fries and pizza to all else. Acker also was a proud nerd, said Dawn, often going to “nerd conventions,” and played a lot of World of Warcraft.

Acker joined the Army after high school, and was a forward artillery observer and a paratrooper charged with “jumping out of planes and doing follow-up missions on the ground,” according to Kevin Goncalves, who told the Idaho Statesman that he was stationed with Acker for two years in Florence, Italy. They also spent time in Latvia after Russia’s 2014 invasion of Ukraine, Goncalves said.

Goncalves described Acker as introverted, a lover of video games, “an excellent runner” and a caring person. He recalled the way Acker would help new recruits, even if they weren’t on the same team. Goncalves said he would not be surprised to hear that Acker risked injury or worse at the mall to protect others.

“(Jo) always stuck up for people (when) others were being disrespected,” Goncalves told the Statesman in a phone interview. “Always stood up for the right thing, even if it brought trouble. That was always something I admired about Jo.”

Dawn was also not surprised to hear of Acker’s heroism. Acker “hated bullies more than anything else” and never failed to stand up to them, Dawn said.

“She would see anybody in trouble, no matter how uncomfortable or awkward it would be, she would stop whatever she was doing to make sure that the other person is safe,” Dawn said.

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