HAWTHORNE, Calif. (PIX11) — A mother fatally shot in front of her 12-year-old son laughed the gunman while driving by his car just before her death, authorities in Southern California said Thursday.
Denise Chiffon Berry and her son were driving along Kornblum Avenue in Hawthorne Wednesday afternoon when they saw a man riding in a Cadillac with his feet hanging out of the window and chuckled about it, Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department Lt. Dave Coleman told PIX11 News’ sister station KTLA.
“This is what the little boy is saying,” Coleman told The Daily Breeze, “Mommy says, ‘Look at that, isn’t that funny?’ and they made eye contact. She drove on and they began following her.”
Suspicious now about the car trailing her, Berry stopped beside a police officer to say she thought she was being followed. The officer told her to pull up in front of him so he could help. That’s when the gunman stepped out of the Cadillac and fired into Berry’s Mercedez-Benz with two handguns, striking her and her son, KTLA reports.
Berry died at the scene. Her son ran away, wounded, and talked to investigators before undergoing surgery.
A police officer opened fired and killed the gunman, identified as 38-year-old Robert Washington. Two men in the Cadillac were arrested — the driver on suspicion of murder and conspiracy, and the backseat passenger on suspicion of conspiracy, Coleman told KTLA.
Coleman said the victim and the shooter were strangers, the only previously contact between them being Berry’s and her son’s laughter at feet hanging out of his car.
Berry worked as a Metro bus operator for nearly five years, a spokeswoman for the transit agency told KTLA. In the caption of a Facebook photo showing Berry in a Metro baseball cap, the deceased mother wrote the partial caption: “blessed to have a job.”