NEWPORT NEWS, Va. (WAVY) — Two officers involved in a shooting that left a man dead after a struggle involving a taser last year at a condominium have been indicted.
One officer, Sgt. Albin T. Pearson, a 12-year veteran of the Newport News Police Department, is charged with second-degree murder, among other felonies and a misdemeanor.
The second officer, Dwight A. Pitterson, is charged with malicious wounding and three other related charges.
WAVY News confirmed Wednesday with Suffolk Commonwealth’s Attorney C. Phillip Ferguson — who was appointed as a special prosecutor in the case — that the officers had been indicted in connection with the death of 43-year-old Henry Kistler Berry III inside his condominium on Dec. 27 last year.
Pearson and Pitterson turned themselves in Wednesday after a Newport News grand jury indicted them Tuesday.
On Thursday, Newport News judges recused themselves from the case and the Virginia Supreme Court appointed a new judge. The new judge, Margaret Poles Spencer, is retired from Richmond.
Officials say all of the court proceedings will still be run out of the Newport News Courthouse.
“We were appointed as the special prosecutor and we were looking at all the facts of this case since about January. We presented our evidence to a grand jury and they returned indictments against Albin Pearson and Dwight Pitterson,” Ferguson, the special prosecutor, said.
Police Chief Steve Drew released a statement on the indictments Thursday.
“This is an unfortunate and tragic situation for all those involved and we must now allow the judicial process to take its course,” Drew said. “The Newport News Police Department wishes to, once again, express our deepest condolences to the Berry family.”
Pearson is charged with:
- Second-degree murder,
- assault by shooting in the commission of a felony,
- misdemeanor assault,
- entering property to damage, etc,
- use of a firearm in the commission of a felony,
- reckless handling of a firearm
Pitterson is charged with:
- Malicious wounding,
- assault by shooting, stabbing, etc in the commission of a felony,
- misdemeanor assault and
- entering property to damage, etc.
At the bond hearing and arraignment held Friday, Nov. 13, Pearson was granted a $200,000 bond and Pitterson was granted a $75,000 bond.
The shooting happened just before 8 p.m. Dec. 27 in the 100 block of Nantucket Place. Several officers were trying to charge Berry with a misdemeanor for misusing 911 multiple times earlier that day.
The offense is a class 1 misdemeanor in Virginia, which carries a sentence of up to 12 months in jail and a fine up to $2,500.
Police Chief Steve Drew held a press conference on the incident shortly after it happened, laying out the details he knew at the time.
Several officers arrived on scene to find Berry in an “agitated” state, Drew said. They tried to get him to step outside him home, but he refused.
He said Berry refused to comply when officers tried to take him into custody, and ran back into his condo, trying to slam the door on the officers. Officers followed and a struggle ensued. Berry ended up on the floor.
Drew said he refused to be handcuffed when he was on the floor, drawing his arms in against his chest. A female officer attempted to calm the man by patting him on the back and reassuring him, but he continued yelling.
Berry was tased after he continued to refuse to comply, Drew said. He then grabbed the taser and tased two of the officers, prompting more of a struggle, during which one of the officers shot him.
They tried to perform CPR, but he died at the scene.
Drew said Berry’s mental illness factored into the incident. Drew said he had called the emergency line more than a dozen times, in the couple of months leading up to the shooting.
Following the shooting, Newport News Police released the name of Pearson identifying him as the officer involved in the incident. At the time, he was placed on administrative leave with pay. Police did not identify Pitterson or any other officers involved at the time.
A neighbor of Berry’s who still lives in the Nantucket at Bernard Village community said the indictments came as a surprise.
“I’m really shocked … [police] said it was sort of a struggle, the mental suspect just wasn’t cooperating,” said Armin Ibrahimovic. “But now this new news, I’m just really shocked. I just never really thought those officers that got charged, it was their fault.”
Correction: This story initially said officers went to Berry’s house to serve a misdemeanor warrant, instead of to charge Berry with a misdemeanor. However, on Nov. 13, a probable cause statement revealed that the officers involved allegedly did not secure an arrest or search warrant.
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