A Virginia firefighter was mistakenly killed in Hopewell on Thanksgiving night, Nov. 28, while shielding her 5-year-old son from gunfire, family members disclosed at a press conference on Tuesday, Dec. 3.
Police responded at about 11:40 p.m. and said they found Lt. Ashley Nicole Berry, 33, suffering from serious injuries. She was rushed to a hospital where she died the next day.
The mother of three, who had served with the fire department since 2011, was at the wrong place at the wrong time when a stray bullet struck her as she left the home of her boyfriend’s family, Hopewell Police Chief Kamran Afzal told the Richmond Times-Dispatch.
“She was not the intended target and neither was the house where she was at,” Afzal said. “The apartment next to it was the target.
Berry’s father, Waverly Berry, recalled telling his 5-year-old grandson how important his mother’s sacrifice was.
“[I told him] ‘Your mother’s last act of love, for you, was to push you down,” he told WTVR-TV. “[She pushed you down] for a reason. The good thing is that God put his covering over you so that we could still have you.”
Berry’s cause of death is still under investigation.
Police said a silver or gold SUV was seen leaving the area at a high rate of speed. It was unclear whether the shooter fired from the vehicle or had stopped and gotten out before the shooting.
Police announced that the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) is offering a $5,000 reward for information that leads to the arrest of Berry’s killer. Tipsters can contact the ATF at (888) ATF-TIPS or at [email protected]
“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,” her cousin George Berry III said.
George asked anyone with information on the case to contact Hopewell police Detective Mark Polumbo at (804) 541-2284. Anonymous tips can also be provided to the Hopewell Prince George Crime Solvers hotline at (804) 541-2202.
A celebration of life ceremony for Berry will begin at noon on Saturday, Dec. 7, at Second Baptist Church in Richmond.
In lieu of flowers, the family is requesting all donations be made to the Richmond Fire Department Foundation Memorial account in her honor. Donations will be accepted at either Richmond Fire Police Credit Union locations, 900 Hermitage Road or 200 W. Grace Street.