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Philanthropist Jacqueline Avant, wife of music exec. Clarence Avant, is fatally shot

Police in Beverly Hills, Calif., are investigating the fatal shooting of Jacqueline Avant, a philanthropist and the wife of music legend Clarence Avant and mother-in-law to Netflix co-CEO Ted Sarandos. Police found Avant, 81, at her home with a gunshot wound. She was taken to Cedars-Sinai Hospital where she later died.

"I don't think it's a random attack, but I can't speculate on that right now," said Beverly Hills Police Department Chief Mark Stainbrook, who spoke to reporters at a news conference. He said at the time of the shooting, Clarence Avant and a security guard were home, and that no one else was injured. The suspect or suspects, he said, are still at large.

The street leading to the Avant's posh home in Beverly Hills is taped off as police investigate a possible motive. Stainbrook said it was too soon to classify the shooting as a home invasion. "We will not speculate on anything that's out there, including if this was a robbery attempt or not," he said.

Stainbrook, who was sworn in as chief just the day before, also read a statement shared by the Avant family: "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."

Avant was the president of the Neighbors of Watts, which supports the South Central Community Child Care Center, and she served on the board of the International Student Center at the University of California, Los Angeles. She was also an entertainment chairman of the NOW benefit auction.

Her husband is known as the "Godfather of Black Music," the chair of Motown Records in the 1990's who founded Sussex Records in 1969 and Tabu Records in 1976. The Grammy winner was a manager, concert organizer, label owner and event producer. He created the first Black-owned FM radio station in Los Angeles.

Over the years, he helped the careers of Bill Withers, Jimmy Smith, Babyface, Lalo Schifrin and others. He got a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2016. In October, he was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, with former President Barack Obama and Vice President Kamala Harris among those who paid tribute to him.

The couple met during the Ebony Fashion Fair in the mid-1960s, when Jacqueline was modeling. They married in 1967 and had two children, Alexander and Nicole.

Their daughter Nicole Avant is a film producer who was the U.S. ambassador to the Bahamas from 2009 to 2011. She is married to Ted Sarandos and worked on a 2019 Netflix documentary about her father. "My mom is really the one who brought to my father and our family the love and passion and importance of the arts and culture and entertainment, she told NBC News when interviewed about the documentary. "While my father was in it, making all the deals, my mother was the one who gave me, for example, my love of literature, my love of filmmaking, my love of storytelling."

Reginald Hudlin, who directed the Netflix documentary, described Jacqueline Avant as "the epitome of grace, elegance, kindness, and good taste.... 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."

More praise for Jacqueline Avant poured in on Twitter. Filmmaker Tyler Perry wrote, "I have no idea what kind of sub-human could shoot an 81-year-old woman, and in her own home. 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."

Actress Viola Davis tweeted "So sorry for the Avant family. My heart goes out to you!!! OMG!!!! Where are we??!!! WHAT are we?!!"

Music producer Quincy Jones wrote, "She was the purest of souls in every sense, & was the Rock of Gibraltar for Clarence, their children, her friends, & community. We are all, every single one of us, better people because Jacquie was in our lives."

Former President Bill Clinton tweeted that his dear friend of 30 years "inspired admiration, respect & affection in everyone who knew her."

And Earvin "Magic" Johnson said that he and his wife Cookie were devastated. "She was senselessly murdered last night in a home invasion," he tweeted. "This is the saddest day in our lives."

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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