In Hopewell, Virginia during the Thanksgiving holiday, a firefighter and mother of three was shot and killed on while trying to protect one of her children from stray bullets while they were walking outside.
Richmond fire Lieutenant Ashley Nicole Berry, 33, was enjoying the holiday at her boyfriend’s family’s home in Hopewell last week. According to reports, Berry was getting ready to leave the residence when someone suddenly started shooting at an apartment next to the home.
The shooting happened just before midnight. Hopewell Police Chief Kamran Afzal said investigators believe Berry was struck by a stray round as she tried to shield her five-year-old son from the gunfire.
Afzal made a statement to the The Richmond Times-Dispatch about the events that played out:
“That’s what I’d expect from [a first responder]. Firefighters and police officers give up their lives for other people and don’t even think twice about it. She was not the intended target and neither was the house where she was at. The apartment next to it was the target. She was definitely at the wrong place at the wrong time … and got hit by a stray round.”
Berry was transported to a local hospital with serious injuries, but was later transferred to VCU Medical Center, where she was pronounced dead shortly after arriving. Police stated the shooter looked to be in a gold or silver SUV that was seen speeding out of the area Berry was shot.
Afzal was recently dubbed the police chief back in January, and this is the first time since his appointment that he’s had to work a shooting case where “somebody who was not the intended target was killed”.
A Richmond, Virginia, fire lieutenant and mother of three was slain Thanksgiving night while trying to protect one of her children from gunfire when she was shot. It is believed the gunman was attempting to fire into an adjacent residence. #valeg
— Shannon Watts (@shannonrwatts) December 3, 2019
The police chief continued on the effects of working a homicide of this nature:
“Anytime that happens, it’s tragic, but it is particularly disturbing knowing that [Berry] is a lieutenant, a brethren at the Richmond Fire Department who had dedicated her life to protecting the community through her work as a firefighter. It really gives you a sense that [tragic, inexplicable] things can happened at any time.”
The mother of three had been with the Richmond Fire Department since 2011 and was recently assigned to the fire marshal’s office. Berry’s family members spoke at a press conference on Tuesday and begged the public to pass along any information they might have to officials working the case.
Berry’s cousin, George Berry III, said the ‘senseless act of violence’ has had a tragic effect on all of her family and loved ones.
George Berry went on to state:
“To the persons or person who caused us this pain, we appeal to your conscience to do the right thing and turn yourself in to the authorities. Ashley’s motherly instinct allowed her to protect her young son from the hail of gunfire, which in turn caused her to lose her life. She was a beloved mother of three and will forever be her children’s hero.”
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The deceased’s father, Waverly Berry, described trying to explain to her five-year-old son in the emergency room why his mother was shot, to which the young boy relayed his understanding by saying:
“The bad people shot mommy.”
Waverly Berry explained to the young boy that his mother’s sacrifice was a final act of love: “The good thing is that God put his covering over you so that we can still have you.”
Richmond Fire Chief Melvin Carter weighed in on the loss of one of his own:
“We will not let Ashley’s untimely death go without her death being extremely meaningful not only to this fire department and to this city, but to all of us at large.”
As of now, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives is offering a $5,000 reward for tips leading to an arrest, police announced Tuesday.
If anyone has any information that can lead to the arrest of those involved, please call the ATF at (888) ATF-TIPS or email information to [email protected] Locals are also encouraged to contact Hopewell police Detective Mark Polumbo at (804) 541-2284 or anonymously to the Hopewell Prince George Crime Solvers hotline at (804) 541-2202 with any information.
A public vigil for Berry will be held Thursday evening at Huguenot High School, and her funeral will take place on Saturday at Second Baptist Church. Berry’s family has asked that any donations be made to the Richmond Fire Department Foundation Memorial account in the lieutenant’s honor.
Donations will be accepted at the Richmond Fire Police Credit Union or can be made by calling (804) 354-0673.
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