A group of civil rights and community leaders called on the county Board of Supervisors Thursday to offer a reward for information leading to the capture of the person or people responsible for the fatal shooting of Jacqueline Avant, wife of music executive Clarence Avant, during a break-in at the couple’s Beverly Hills home.
“This cowardly act cannot be unpunished,” Michael Lawson, CEO of the Los Angeles Urban League, said during a news conference in Leimert Park. “We must find who did this and we must take action.
“… This must stop. This was not just a robbery. This was not just a random killing. This was a shot to the hearts of all of us,” he said. “She was not only gentle and kind, she was a pillar of that family. … This is not only appalling, it is senseless, and it cannot be allowed to continue.”
Jacqueline Avant, 81, was shot at about 2:25 a.m. Wednesday during a break-in at the couple’s home in the 1100 block of Maytor Place in the Trousdale Estates community of Beverly Hills. She died at a hospital, police said.
Beverly Hills Police Department Chief Mark Stainbrook said nobody else was injured. Stainbrook declined to speculate on a motive for the shooting, or whether the break-in was a home-invasion robbery. He urged anyone with information to contact police.
“I don’t think it’s a random attack, but I can’t speculate on that right now,” he said.
Clarence Avant, 90, is known as the Godfather of Black Music, and has been regularly celebrated by artists such as Jay-Z and Diddy, L.A. Reid and Babyface. He began as a talent manager in the 1950s, worked at Venture Records in Southern California and founded L.A.-based Sussex Records and Avant Garde Broadcasting.
He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in October.
Jacqueline Avant served as president of the Neighbors of Watts, a support group that focused on child care. She was also on the board of directors of UCLA’s International Student Center.
She and Clarence Avant have two grown children — Nicole and Alexander. Nicole Avant, a film producer who served as U.S. ambassador to the Bahamas during President Barack Obama’s administration, is the wife of Netflix co-CEO Ted Sarandos. She also served as a co-producer on the Netflix film “The Black Godfather,” a documentary about her father’s life and career.
The shooting “did not affect just the Avant family,” Lawson said. “This affects the entire family of Los Angeles, of the entertainment community, of the political community. You may not know, but President Obama would not be there without Clarence Avant. Clarence Avant would not be there without Jackie Avant and their children. The strength and talent and power of that family is unmatched. But their anchor was Jackie. Their anchor is Jackie. I will not speak of her in the past tense.”
Activist Najee Ali of Operation Hope said Avant was targeted just as other affluent families, residents and businesses have been in recent weeks by brazen robberies, follow-home heists and smash-and-grab break-ins. He called Avant’s killing an act of cowardice carried out by someone who “was too lazy to get a job to feed themselves.”
The activists urged elected leaders to post reward money to encourage people to come forward with information about the killing.
“For those of you involved in this, understand one thing — the community is coming for you,” Robert Sausedo, CEO of Community Build, said. “We are going to do whatever we can across Los Angeles to find justice in this situation. We are coming for you.”
For people who may have information about the killing, Sausedo said, “Silence is consent. You have to stand up. You have to stop this.”
The Avant family issued a statement Wednesday saying, “The entire Avant and Sarandos families wish to thank everyone for their outpouring of love, support and heartfelt condolences for Jacqueline Avant. Jacqueline was an amazing woman, wife, mother and philanthropist and a 55-year resident of Beverly Hills who has made an immeasurable positive impact on the arts community. She will be missed by her family, friends and all of the people she has helped throughout her amazing life.”
Former President Bill Clinton issued a statement Wednesday, calling Avant “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. She inspired admiration, respect & affection in everyone who knew her. We are heartbroken. She will be deeply missed.”
Laker legend Magic Johnson said he and his wife were “absolutely devastated” by the death of Avant, whom he called “one of our closest friends.”
“This is the saddest day in our lives,” he wrote. “Jackie was the sweetest person you could ever meet. She had a beautiful soul, kind heart & always had a kind word for everybody. She was quiet, yet powerful, & very smart. We are praying for Clarence, Nicole & Alex’s loss. Our thoughts & prayers go out to the entire family.”
In a statement, Rep. Karen Bass, D-Los Angeles and a candidate for L.A. mayor, said, “The devastating events of last night along with recent reports of brazen crime in Los Angels rupture the expectation of safety we have for our friends, families and fellow Angelenos.
“All of us have a right to be safe and last night was an absolute violation of that right. Those responsible must be held fully accountable. My thoughts are with Mr. Avant, Nicole and Ted, Alex and the rest of the Avant family as they mourn the loss of such a wonderful wife, mother and friend.”
Stainbrook sought to reassure Beverly Hills residents, calling such violent crime “extremely rare” and saying, “Your city remains safe and one of the safest in the nation.”
“Crime of any type will not be tolerated in this city and we will not rest until the suspect or suspects in this case are brought to justice,” he said.