Jacqueline Avant, Philanthropist and Long-Time Resident, Shot and Killed

Long-time Beverly Hills resident Jacqueline Avant, 81, was shot and killed at her home in the Trousdale Estates neighborhood in the early morning of Dec. 1, according to the Beverly Hills Police Department. Avant, wife of music executive and producer Clarence Avant, was a prominent figure and philanthropist in the Beverly Hills art and culture world.

“This is a difficult day for our city,” said BHPD Chief Mark Stainbrook, only on his third day as Police Chief. According to Stainbrook, police received a call of a shooting around 2:23 a.m. Beverly Hills Fire Department paradmedics transported Avant to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, where she was pronounced dead.

“The Avant family’s contribution to the world of entertainment and to better communities across Los Angeles are unmatched. There are no words to express our profound sorrow for this immense loss for Jacqueline’s husband, Clarence, their children, and the entire Avant family,” Stainbrook said.

At a press conference, Stainbrook read a statement from the Avant family. “The entire Avant family wishes to thank everyone for their outpouring of love, support, and condolences for Jacqueline Avant,” the statement said. “Jacqueline was an amazing woman, wife, mother, philanthropist, and a 55-year resident of Beverly Hills, who has made an immeasurable positive contribution and 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.”

Stainbrook confirmed that Avant’s husband and a private security guard were present at the time of the shooting, neither of whom were injured, but did not supply a possible motive behind the crime.

“The motives in this case are still unknown and we’re investigating all possible motives,” he said. “We will not speculate on anything that’s out there, including if this was a robbery attempt or not.”

Early in life, Avant modeled for the Ebony Fashion Fair, a traveling fashion event that exposed Black communities to high-end fashion. She married Clarence in 1967. The couple had two children, Nicole and Alex.

Clarence, nicknamed the “Black Godfather,” is a titanic figure in the music industry who has worked with artists including Bill Withers, Sarah Vaughan, and Babyface. Their daughter Nicole served as U.S. ambassador to the Bahamas under President Barack Obama and is married to Ted Sarandos, co-chief executive officer and chief content officer for Netflix.

Susan Strauss, a former Design Review commissioner, knew Avant for 40 years, living near her in Trousdale at one point. The two worked together as docents at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and served as board members on The Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts. She described the news as “devastating.”

“She was generous of spirit and kind and a wonderful friend,” Strauss told the Courier. Strauss remembered her as a devoted mother and wife of over 50 years who preferred to remain behind the scenes. “She was somebody who did her own thing in her own way that helped the community and a lot of people.”

As a Beverly Hills resident for over five decades and a lover of the arts, The Wallis had a special place in Avant’s heart, Strauss said. Strauss recalled that for Avant’s 80th birthday, she requested that friends make donations to The Wallis in her honor.

As shock rippled across the Beverly Hills community and beyond, people took to social media to express sorrow over the tragedy.

“A heartbreaking day in the history of Beverly Hills,” Vice Mayor Lili Bosse said in a Facebook post. “Crime of any type will never be tolerated in Beverly Hills. I, as well as our community, send our love and deepest sympathies to the Avant family.”

Earvin “Magic” Johnson shared his and his wife’s grief on Twitter, writing, “Cookie and I are absolutely devastated at the loss of one of our closest friends Jackie Avant.”

He added: “This is the saddest day in our lives.”

At the press conference, Stainbrook sought to reassure the community during a moment of heightened anxiety over crime.

“Beverly Hills remains one of the safest cities in the United States…and we deploy a lot of resources to keep it safe. This type of crime, in general, is extremely rare. This type of crime in Beverly Hills is extremely rare,” he said.

“Crime is generally low,” Stainbrook said. “I’ve been a cop for 30 years, and when I first started, crime was much higher in the Los Angeles region. It’s much lower now. But of course, in the last couple years, we have seen an uptick in crime everywhere.”

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