At a press conference on Wednesday afternoon, Beverly Hills Police Chief Mark Stainbrook said investigators are continuing to comb the scene for clues, and asked for the public’s help in apprehending the killer, who remains at large.
“Crime of any type will not be tolerated in our city,” Stainbrook said. “We will not rest until the suspect or suspects in this case are brought to justice.”
Jacqueline Avant was known for her philanthropic work, including serving on the board of directors of UCLA’s International Student Center and as president of the Neighbors of Watts. The Avants’ daughter, Nicole Avant, is a Democratic fundraiser and a former ambassador, as well as the wife of Netflix co-CEO Ted Sarandos. She produced a popular Netflix documentary about her father, “The Black Godfather,” in 2019.
At the press conference, Stainbrook shared a message from the Avant family, who thanked those who have expressed condolences and support.
“Jacqueline was an amazing woman — a wife, mother, philanthropist, and a 55-year resident of Beverly Hills who has made an immeasurable positive contribution and impact on the arts community,” the family said in the statement. “She will be missed by her family, friends and all the people she has helped throughout her amazing life.”
Early reports characterized the incident as a home invasion robbery, but Stainbrook said it was too soon to say what the motive was.
“Someone went into the home,” he said. “We don’t know what the purpose was behind that.”
He did say that it appeared the shooting was not a “random attack.”
The police chief confirmed that a security guard was at the home at the time of the incident, and was unhurt. Police received a call at 2:23 a.m. Wednesday indicating that someone had been shot in the 1100 block of Maytor Place, in the Trousdale Estates area.
Jacqueline Avant was taken by Beverly Hills paramedics to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, where she died. The suspect or suspects had fled by the time police arrived. No description of the suspects or a vehicle was provided.
Former President Bill Clinton expressed his grief at the loss of a “dear friend.”
“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,” he said. “She inspired admiration, respect & affection in everyone who knew her. We are heartbroken. She will be deeply missed.”
Magic Johnson was also among those expressing devastation over Avant’s murder, tweeting, “Cookie and I are absolutely devastated at the loss of one of our closest friends Jackie Avant. She was senselessly murdered last night in a home invasion. This is the saddest day in our lives.”
Others who paid tribute included Tavis Smiley, Reginald Hudlin, Donna Brazile, Diane Warren and Viola Davis. Stevie Wonder called into Smiley’s radio show on Wednesday, saying he was heartbroken by the death.
“She is truly one of God’s children,” he said. “She showed it in her everyday spirit, and that’s what is making me want to cry.”
Tyler Perry also expressed his heartbreak on Twitter.
“This world can be so cruel and cold!! I have no idea what kind of sub-human could shoot an 81 year old woman, and in her own home,” Perry said. “But you can rest assured that every available resource will be used to find whoever is responsible for this awful nightmare. This is tremendously sad.”
John Mirisch, a Beverly Hills councilman, said the Avants had been part of the community for decades.
“This is beyond shocking,” he said. “The police will have every tool at their disposal and every resource to catch the scumbags who did this.”
Stainbrook was hired in October to serve as the city’s police chief, and started work on Monday. He sought to reassure residents that the city remains safe.
“Beverly Hills remains one of the safest cities in the nation,” he said. “We deploy a lot of resources to keep it safe. This type of crime in general is extremely rare.”
The Avants also have a son, Alexander Du Bois Avant, who was featured in “The Black Godfather.” Clarence Avant was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in October, where he was feted on video by such figures as Barack Obama and Kamala Harris.
TMZ first reported the shooting death.