Monday, June 25, 2001

NEWS - Police seek clues in zoo shooting; no arrests made

Police seek clues in zoo shooting; no arrests made
Officials close park in search of bullet that killed woman
Lansing State Journal
Lansing, Mich.
June 25, 2001

Potter Park Zoo remained closed Sunday while police scoured the grounds searching for the bullet that killed 41-year-old Bernita White.

Police have no one in custody, and don't know where the shot that struck the Delta Township woman came from as she walked in front of her daughter Saturday, Lansing police Lt. Raymond Hall said.

Police have interviewed at least a dozen of White's acquaintances, and her husband, state police Trooper Artis White. But investigators haven't been able to focus on any leads, Hall said.

"We're considering anyone who knew our victim to be a suspect,'' he said. "We've eliminated no one."

Along with her husband, Bernita White is survived by two daughters.

Artis White declined to speak with a reporter outside his home Sunday.

Neighbor Cathleen Airola has known Artis and Bernita White for about five years. She heard of White's death Sunday morning.

"She was a very generous woman - a wonderful neighbor,'' Airola said. "We would all meet in the street to chat. All our kids played together.

"She loved to bake. She would send cookies over. Just the small things that make a difference in a neighborhood."

Officials had hoped to reopen the park and zoo Sunday. But state police crime investigators needed an extra day to search for any evidence that could help pinpoint where a gunman may have stood.

The park and zoo are expected to reopen today.

White was shot once just after 3:30 p.m. Saturday while walking with her daughter and friends from a picnic area toward the zoo's ticket booth.

Investigators remain dumbfounded by the shooting. At least 300 people were enjoying a sunny afternoon in the park and the zoo at the time of the shooting.

"Before this, open alcohol was a big deal in Potter Park - loud music was a common call,'' Hall said.

"This is just as shocking to law enforcement as it is to the public. We just don't see this type of violence."

Park officials say they can't remember a similar event that forced an evacuation in Potter Park's history.

Adam and Brandy Thompson drove to Potter Park to enjoy a Sunday picnic. But they were turned away by an officer behind yellow police tape.

"I was a little surprised,'' said Brandy Thompson, brushing her yellow Labrador at nearby Sycamore Park. "I was just there three weeks ago with my nephew.''' Police had said that the shooting appeared random. "But we're not ruling anything out,'' Hall said.

"Statistically speaking, there are few homicides that are truly random,'' he said. "In most cases, what appears to be random - upon investigating the crime - a motive develops."

Police received several dozen phone calls Sunday from people who were at the park and heard gunfire, Hall said.

At least 20 officers, six detectives and every available dog-tracking team arrived at the park to comb the area soon after the shooting. The investigation moved slowly into Sunday without progress.

Witnesses reported hearing one or two shots, possibly from a wooded area north of the zoo entrance. No one reported seeing who fired the shot.

White's death marks Lansing's second homicide in three days - its first two of 2001.

On Thursday, Lansing's Delayno Hudson, 39, was shot and killed at his cellular phone store.

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