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Dunwoody High grad killed in Tallahassee shooting had ‘heart of gold’

Maura Binkley was among the thousands who rallied at Florida’s Capitol after the Valentine’s Day school shooting in Parkland. On Friday, Binkley, a Dunwoody High School graduate with a generous heart and contagious smile, was one of two people killed by a gunman at a yoga class in Tallahassee.

A 21-year-old senior at Florida State University, Binkley was known for her compassion, positive outlook and eagerness to help others.

“She was really a light in everyone’s life,” said her roommate, 21-year-old Anna Thomas. “She was just incredibly genuine and strong for others. She was inspiring.”

Binkley graduated from Dunwoody High in 2015. At FSU, she had a double major — German, which she could speak fluently, and English, specializing in writing, editing and media. An excellent student, she was having ongoing interviews for a prestigious Fulbright Scholarship or to work for Teach For America, which trains people without education degrees to teach at high-poverty schools.

“Maura was a wonderful person who had a heart of gold,” said her aunt, Azalee Vereen. “Just a beautiful, giving young lady.”

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The shooting, Vereen said, “is so senseless. Her family is devastated by it. They are at a loss. She had an incredibly bright future.”

RELATED: Read and sign the online guestbook for Maura Binkley

Binkley had previously taken active shooter defense training, her aunt noted. Such training has become more common in recent years at schools and workplaces.

“We don’t know what happened for sure, but if the opportunity had presented itself, I’m sure she would have done all she could to save others,” Vereen said.

Maura Binkley, who was shot and killed Friday at a yoga class in Tallahassee, with her parents, Jeff and Margaret Binkley. (Family photo)

She is survived by her parents, Jeff and Margaret, and an older brother, Sean.

Late Friday, hours after the shooting, hundreds of Binkley’s friends and sorority sisters, some of whom Binkley mentored when they struggled at school, gathered together on campus.

RELATED: Who was Scott Beierle, the shooter at the Tallahassee yoga shop?

FSU’s Tri Delta chapter “is devastated by the passing of our beloved sister,” said Kim Sullivan, the sorority’s international president.

“As a leader in our chapter, Maura embodied the Tri Delta woman — brave, bold and kind,” Sullivan said. “Our hearts are with her family, our sisters and the FSU community during this difficult time.”

 

FSU was a special place for Binkley and her family. Not only did Binkley’s grandparents meet one another at the university before becoming engaged, her parents did too, Vereen said.

“FSU has a big place in our hearts,” she added. “Our family has garnet blood running through its veins.”

At Dunwoody High, Binkley, a former Girl Scout, took advanced-placement classes and was editor of the school yearbook. While attending FSU, Binkley studied abroad, earning school credits taking classes at a university in Germany and also traveling across Europe.

Her boyfriend, Briggs Ellison, said when he first met Binkley, “she completely had me.”

“I never felt so happy as when I was with her,” the 23-year-old FSU graduate student said. “She was outgoing and loving. Her personality infected others, and only in the most positive way. She always had a smile on her face, regardless of any difficult circumstances she had to face.”

Binkley hated violence and was proud to have shown her respects for the 17 people killed in the Parkland mass shooting, Ellison said.

“We talked about it the night she went to the Capitol,” he said. “I never ever realized then that she’d also become a victim.”

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