NEWPORT NEWS, Va. (WAVY) — A Newport News police sergeant was sentenced Friday after he was found guilty of manslaughter in a fatal 2019 shooting.
Judge Margaret Poles Spencer sentenced 36-year-old Albin Pearson to 10 years with five years suspended for his manslaughter charge. Regarding his misdemeanor unlawful entry charge, Pearson received one year of active time. In total, he was sentenced to six years behind bars.
Right before sentencing, Pearson addressed the family of the man he shot and killed.
“I wish I was a stronger man, I wish I had been a better police officer and I’ll have to live with that for the rest of my life,” Pearson said.
“He felt he had no choice. He did what he did, and he stands by what he did, and we’ll have another court address the propriety of what happened,” said Pearson’s defense attorney Tim Clancy upon leaving the courthouse.
In early September, a jury of seven women and five men convicted Pearson of manslaughter and the misdemeanor trespass charge in connection with the death of Henry “Hank” Berry III.
Pearson was initially charged with second-degree murder. The jury found him not guilty of assault & battery and three felony gun charges.
The charges stemmed from an incident that occurred in late December 2019. Pearson and three other officers responded to Berry’s Nantucket Place home for his alleged abuse of the 911 system. He was concerned about the welfare of his nine-year-old son, who was with the boy’s mother.
The officers had no arrest or search warrant, and Berry, 43, refused to come outside his home. Police body cam videos of the interaction show when he tried to close his front door, the officers entered and tried to arrest him.
A struggle followed, and Berry got control of a taser. That’s when Pearson shot Berry in the back and he died in his living room several minutes later.
His father, Hank Berry, Jr., testified Friday and said “My son thought his son was in danger. He was trying to protect him. He did everything he could,” before breaking down in tears. “My son was murdered (all because of ) a phone call.”
Berry described how his son and grandson enjoyed activities together including skiing, BMX, church and golf.
Pearson’s father, Albin Trevor Pearson, also testified Friday, saying his son has dedicated his life to helping others. He recounted how his son received a department commendation for rescuing three people from the roof of a burning house before the fire department arrived.
A spokesperson from the Newport News Police Department says Pearson resigned from the department on August 31, 2022.
Clancy said Pearson was defending fellow officers when he shot Berry. At trial, Spencer had ruled the day before the jury got the case that both the entry into Berry’s home and the attempt to arrest him were unlawful.
Clancy said those rulings made his defense of Pearson even more challenging.
“I’m very disappointed with the court’s sentence particularly with all the facts and circumstances I asked them to consider. This entire case has been a disappointment, candidly, and my client is anxious to be vindicated in the Court of Appeals.”
Hank Berry, Jr. wanted the maximum sentence of ten years for the manslaughter charge but described the sentence of 6 years as “fair” as he left the courthouse.
“We trust our police officers. When somebody does something so grievous as this, there needs to be an example made, so that other police officers don’t do it,” said Berry Jr. during his witness testimony.
Clancy said he would immediately appeal Pearson’s sentence.