Longtime friend remembers man shot and killed by Newport News Police

Posted at 3:36 PM, Dec 31, 2019
and last updated 2019-12-31 18:35:34-05

NEWPORT NEWS, Va. - David Larson said he spoke to 43-year-old Henry Kistler Berry III just two days before he was killed.

"Hank was a good dude. He was raising his son, doing a good job. I don't know what happened," said Larson.

Larson said he had known Berry for more than a decade and told News 3 he had just moved back to Newport News to be near family after living in Colorado for some time.

"When I heard what happened, I was shocked - absolutely, positively shocked," said Larson.

Berry was killed by a Newport News Police officer during an incident at an apartment complex near City Center around 8:15 p.m on Friday.

Officers responded to address someone who Newport News Police Chief Steve Drew said had called multiple times. The victim started calling about different situations in Fairfax and other areas around 2 p.m. that day, he said, and officers had been there earlier.

When officers responded Friday night, they intended to charge Berry with abusing the 911 system and tying up the line.

Drew described Berry as being in an "agitated state" when officers knocked on the door. He refused to step outside when asked to do so, according to police.

After a short conversation and being asked a second time, Berry again refused, and Drew said he "darted" back inside the apartment and tried to slam the door on the responding officers.

The officers entered the apartment and tried to take control of Berry. Drew said there was a short struggle that started out with two officers, eventually increasing to four officers.

The struggle then moved to the floor, and the suspect refused to be handcuffed. Drew said a female officer was seen patting the suspect's back trying to calm him down.

The police chief said the responding officers asked Berry multiple times to put his hands behind his back and said that they told him he was being charged and placed under arrest.

One officer pulled out his Tazer and told Berry, "If you don't stop resisting, you will be Tazed," Drew said. Berry did not comply, and he was Tazed.

Berry then grabbed the Tazer, and Drew said it was "pretty clear" at that point that two or three officers were likely Tazed.

This is when Sgt. Albert Pearson, the 12-year department veteran involved in the shooting, drew his firearm and fired, striking Berry. Berry went down, and one officer ran to retrieve a medical bag.

"It is just a terrible, terrible thing. Hard to believe," said Larson.

Drew said the officers tried to perform CPR and other life-saving techniques, also calling for assistance.

Berry was pronounced dead on scene.

Larson admits he has always known Berry was paranoid and mentally ill.

"Something was really weighing on him. I think he was going through a custody battle for his son," said Larson.

Larson feels NNPD took excessive force unnecessarily.

"He was murdered by the police - straight up murdered," said Larson.

News 3 reached out to NNPD to ask them if they have a Crisis Intervention Team of officers on the force. Those are officers who specialize in dealing with people suffering from mental illness. A spokesperson would not answer that question, saying the incident is under investigation and that no further information would be released. They also would not comment if those CIT officers responded to the scene on Friday night.

"It was clear as day he had mental health issues," said Larson.

Drew said there had been between 14-16 calls to the residence over the past couple of months. He said there is a possibility Berry had mental health issues, but he said he wants to talk to communications to determine exactly what all the calls were about.

This is an ongoing investigation in conjunction with the Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office, and no further information can be released at this time.