'Unfathomable' slaying of Jacqueline Avant stuns Hollywood and political world

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BEVERLY HILLS, CALIFORNIA - JANUARY 25: (L-R) Jacqueline Avant and Clarence Avant attend the Pre-GRAMMY Gala and GRAMMY Salute to Industry Icons Honoring Sean "Diddy" Combs on January 25, 2020 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images for The Recording Academy)
Jacqueline Avant and Clarence Avant attend a pre-Grammy gala on Jan. 25, 2020, in Beverly Hills. (Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images for the Recording Academy)

The shooting death of Jacqueline Avant in her Beverly Hills home Wednesday morning brought an outpouring of grief, shock and remembrances from the worlds of politics, entertainment and L.A. philanthropy.

Avant, 81, was a prominent figure in national Democratic politics for decades as well as an L.A. philanthropist along with her husband, legendary music executive Clarence Avant.

Their Trousdale Estates home was the center of events that included national political figures including Bill and Hillary Clinton, Jimmy Carter and Jerry Brown, along with Hollywood stars and musicians.

"Jackie Avant was a wonderful woman, a great partner to Clarence and mother to Alex and Nicole, an active citizen & a dear friend to Hillary and me for 30 years," former President Clinton said in a statement on Twitter. "She inspired admiration, respect & affection in everyone who knew her. We are heartbroken. She will be deeply missed."

There was an outpouring of grief in Hollywood, where some described the couple as important mentors.

"Our family is devastated by the loss of Jackie Avant, a universally loved and admired role model in our community and in our lives for decades," said Reginald Hudlin, director of "The Black Godfather" documentary about Clarence Avant.

"Jackie was the epitome of grace, elegance, kindness, and good taste," the director added. "Like so many people in Hollywood, I owe so much to the mentorship and generosity of Clarence and Jackie. This is a senseless tragedy that has our entire industry reeling, confused and heartbroken."

“Cookie and I are absolutely devastated at the loss of one of our closest friends Jackie Avant,” Los Angeles Laker legend Magic Johnson said on Twitter. “This is the saddest day in our lives.”

Avant also played a key role in causes far from Hollywood.

She served at one time as the president of the Neighbors of Watts, a support group for the South Central Community Child Care Center, and as entertainment chairman of the NOW benefit auction. She was also a supporter of the UCLA International Student Center.

Danny Bakewell Sr., a longtime community leader and activist in South Los Angeles, wrote a tribute in his publication, the Los Angeles Sentinel.

“I cannot express how overwhelmingly pained I am at the loss of such a beautiful person as Jackie Avant. For her to be killed in such a senseless way is unfathomable. There are no [two] more kind and generous people than Clarence and Jackie and for their home and their lives to be violated in such a violent manner is unconscionable," Bakewell said.

"Her brutal murder is not only a loss to her entire family but is a terrible loss to everyone who met her. Her warm and kind personality was evident to everyone who came into contact with her, and her loving smile was a Blessing to us all," he added.

Police have released few details about the shooting.

They responded to a call in the 1100 block of Maytor Place shortly before 2:30 a.m., according to Lt. Giovanni Trejo of the Beverly Hills Police Department.

Trejo could not immediately confirm the name of the victim but said she was taken to the hospital with a gunshot wound, where she later died.

A source who spoke on condition of anonymity confirmed to The Times that it was Jacqueline Avant.

Beverly Hills Police Chief Mark Stainbrook told The Times that it was too soon to classify the incident as a home invasion or follow-home robbery but that the investigation is ongoing.

Neighbors were stunned to learn of the news.

"Lovely lady. Amazing people," said Vida Ardevilchi, who lives in the neighborhood and would often see Jacqueline and Clarence Avant while they went out for walks.

"I can't believe this is happening. God bless her soul."

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.

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