Police: Zoo shooting likely intentional
Trajectory of bullet indicates fatal shot intended for victim
Lansing State Journal
By Adam Emerso
June 26, 2001
The shot that killed Bernita White at Potter Park likely wasn't fired accidentally, Lansing police said Monday.
Investigators determined that the shot Saturday came from a rifle near the park's border, a wooded area north of the zoo's ticket booth, police Lt. Raymond Hall said.
But police couldn't find the bullet that went through the 41- year-old Delta Township woman.
"We're confident the shooter was a long distance away,'' Hall said. "Based on the trajectory of the bullet, we can rule out that the shot was fired in the air and randomly struck someone walking in the park."
The bullet entered White's arm, struck her heart and came out her right side, Ingham County Interim Medical Examiner Dennis Jurczak said.
Hall said White likely was an intended target. "She was either chosen randomly or there's a person or persons with a motive and intended for her to be their target."
White's death was Lansing's second homicide in three days - its first two of this year.
A police officer has been assigned to patrol the zoo as a precaution. That will continue indefinitely, Hall said.
Although the bullet wasn't found, the 100-acre park and zoo reopened Monday. They were closed Sunday while investigators searched for the slug.
"We're not optimistic we're going to find the bullet,'' which could have gone into the river, Hall said.
White was shot once just after 3:30 p.m. while walking next to her 5-year-old daughter from a picnic and play area toward the zoo's entrance.
White also has a 7-year-old daughter who was not with her at the park. White's husband, Artis, is a state police trooper. He had dropped off his wife and daughter earlier in the day, police said, and arrived half an hour after the shooting expecting to pick them up.
About 10 p.m. Saturday, state police troopers in Detroit told White's mother that her daughter had been shot and killed.
The Detroit-area woman died of a heart attack upon hearing the news, state police Capt. Jack Shepherd said. Shepherd didn't know the woman's name.
Although the park and zoo bustled with about 400 people, many said they felt uneasy.
"It's not good to go through life being afraid,'' said Jeanne Walser of Holt. She was watching her boys - Jacob, 11, Justin, 7, and Jack, 4 - play with other children on swings and slides. "It doesn't set a good example.
"But I've probably been a little more cautious. I'm looking around more than I would've before.''' Although Wendy Abner of Holt had reservations about bringing her 6-year-old daughter, Regan, and son, Grayson, 3, to an educational camp at the zoo on Monday, she never doubted she'd come.
"You have to have faith in the police,'' Abner said. "I'm not going to bury my face in the sand."
Despite dozens of phone calls from people saying they heard shots at Potter Park on Saturday, police said progress in the White investigation has been slow.
"But I'm definitely not giving up,'' said Sgt. Darin Larner, Lansing police's lead detective on White's homicide.
Funeral services for White are pending at the Riley Funeral Home, 426 W. St. Joseph St.
Police have no suspects in the Thursday shooting death of Lansing's Delayno Hudson, 39. He was shot and killed at his cellular phone store.
But police Capt. Steve Luciano said Monday that Hudson may have been killed by someone who knew him. Police don't know what, if anything, was taken from Hudson's store. They found his abandoned SUV - which they believe his killer stole - Sunday in Lansing.