Atlanta shooting victim remembered for her passion for social justice

More than 500 people attended a celebration of life Friday for Amy St. Pierre, killed May 3 in a shooting at a Midtown medical office. St. Pierre, 38, once danced ballet on the concert hall stage at Emory University where her memorial was held.

Credit: Steve Schaefer

Credit: Steve Schaefer

More than 500 people attended a celebration of life Friday for Amy St. Pierre, killed May 3 in a shooting at a Midtown medical office. St. Pierre, 38, once danced ballet on the concert hall stage at Emory University where her memorial was held.

The ruthless act of gun violence that took Amy St. Pierre’s life came up several times at her funeral Friday, but with her two young children sitting on the front row, speakers talked mostly about how their mother tried to change the world.

“So much of the hard work that Amy put in to make the world kinder and more loved-filled was to make the world better for the people she loved,” said Julie Zaharatos, St. Pierre’s friend and colleague at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “We may never comprehend why someone who constantly worked to make others’ lives better had her own life taken so soon.”

St. Pierre, 38, died in the May 3 shooting at Northside Medical Midtown, which injured four other women and led to an eight-hour manhunt for the alleged killer. St. Pierre, who lived in Virginia-Highland with her husband, Julian, and their 7-year-old daughter and 5-year-old son, had gone to the medical office for a doctor’s appointment.

“Lydia and Louis,” Zaharatos said Friday, addressing the children, “your mom loves it when you score enough points for parents pie-in-the-face day. Lydia, she loves how you read. She loves how you think. She loves how you leave post it notes around the house.”

Amy St. Pierre, 38, worked as a public health analyst focusing on maternal mortality issues for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Division of Reproductive Health.

Credit: Contributed

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Credit: Contributed

St. Pierre shared her love of motherhood in her professional life, serving as a public health analyst focusing on maternal mortality issues for the CDC’s Division of Reproductive Health. She started her career at the agency in 2014, working in the fight against HIV and AIDS. In her studies and career she traveled the world so much, to Europe, South America, Africa and China, she caught malaria twice.

More than 700 people attended her celebration of life at Emory University, a reservation-only event that was closed to the media. The family, however, invited a reporter from The Atlanta Journal-Constitution to attend.

St. Pierre’s family and friends remembered her as a child eating chicken fingers and French fries, as a teenager going to concerts with her best friend, and as the Emory University student who danced ballet on the same stage where her funeral was held, in the Cherry Logan Emerson Concert Hall of the Schwartz Center for Performing Arts.

As an adult she commuted to work by bicycle, collected hard copies of People magazine, took in foster dogs and took her children on camping trips. Brainy and passionate, she would speak out in social gatherings about topics such as politics, racism, white privilege, mental health, women’s health and gun control, one of her neighbors, Jamie Butler, said during the service.

“But she did all of this without dividing the room. She never stepped on anybody’s toes,” Butler said. “Amy embodied the value of celebrating people’s differences, and allowing that to be the very thing that pulled them together.”

Jamie Butler, a neighbor of Amy St. Pierre, recalled her love of motherhood and passion for social justice during a celebration of life for St. Pierre at Emory University on Friday.

Credit: Steve Schaefer

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Credit: Steve Schaefer

But hanging over the memorial was the “senseless crime” referred to in St. Pierre’s obituary.

Investigators believe another patient, 24-year-old Deion Patterson, shot five women inside the waiting room of the 11th-floor Laureate Medical Group office. According to workers in the building who spoke to the AJC, Patterson became enraged after he arrived half an hour late for an appointment and was turned away, allegedly drawing a handgun from a satchel he carried into the building.

Patterson’s mother, who has declined to speak with the AJC, has said Patterson was having a “mental break” and wanted to be prescribed the anxiety medication Ativan. But his Veterans Affairs medical team declined to give it to him, fearing he could become addicted, she said in an interview with The Associated Press.

Patterson was arrested in Cobb County on charges of murder and aggravated assault. He remains in the Fulton County jail, where he is being held without bond.

Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens and U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock, both of whom have called for national gun law reforms since St. Pierre’s killing, sent messages for the funeral by letter, promising to continue the fight against violence.

“Atlanta still reels from the horrific incident that took Amy from us. As a fellow Atlantan, please know that I’m praying for you,” Dickens said in a letter read by the city’s executive director for constituent services. “As mayor, I want you to know that the Atlanta Police Department and our partners in law enforcement will continue to work to pursue continued justice.”

The presiding minister read the letter from Warnock, who had been pushing for gun control legislation the morning of the shootings and gave an impassioned speech on the Senate floor that day calling for new gun control measures.

“As a pastor, I’m praying for all of you with my words and thoughts, but also by taking action, just as Amy took action in her professional and personal life for the many causes she championed,” Warnock’s message said. “Amy believed, just as I do, that our responsibility is to continue bending the moral arc of the universe toward justice.”

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