Mystery Surrounds Murder of California Mother by Motorist in ‘Hail of Gunfire’

© California Department of Motor Vehicles Denise Berry in an undated California Department of Motor Vehicles identification photo.
© California Department of Motor Vehicles Denise Berry in an undated California Department of Motor Vehicles identification photo.

Denise Berry and her 12-year-old son were headed to a barbershop when her son pointed out a man’s feet hanging out of a car window at a stoplight.

The two shared a laugh, then continued on their way Wednesday afternoon. Berry, 44, noticed that a car was following them, said Lt. Dave Coleman with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department. She saw a Hawthorne police officer, pulled to the side of the road in the 14200 block of Kornblum Avenue and told him what was going on.

He told her to pull in front of him so he could help her.

As Berry got back into her gray Mercedes, a Cadillac pulled up, and a man got out and began shooting. There was a “hail of gunfire,” Coleman said. The Hawthorne police officer jumped out of his car and fired at the gunman, killing him.

Berry was also pronounced dead at the scene. Her son was wounded but able to run away. He was released from the hospital Thursday, family members said.

Investigators are still piecing together what may have led up to the shooting. Coleman said there were no gang signs thrown, and Berry did not appear to know the man or the two other people in the Cadillac.

Coleman declined to comment on whether the dead gunman, identified as Robert Washington, 38, may have been under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

On Friday, the driver of the Cadillac, 24-year-old Stanley White, was charged with murder. The other person in the car has not been charged.

As the sun set Friday evening, friends and family gathered near the crime scene to remember Berry, a single mother of three. They described her as a strong and charismatic woman, who made friends feel like family.

Her sister knelt down to light pink and white candles. The crowd blocked the sidewalk, as people wept for Berry, who lived in Hawthorne and worked as a Metro bus driver for four years.

People held plastic foam cups with candles inside. A bit farther down the street, a small vigil had been set up for Washington.

Lucy Rivera, who has lived off Kornblum Avenue for 15 years, said shootings don’t happen in the neighborhood.

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Source: Los Angeles Times | Jerome Campbell

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