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Man kills woman, injures son after they laughed at him, police say

A gunman shot and killed a woman in front of her 12-year-old son after the pair laughed at him, officials said.

Hawthorne police immediately shot and killed the gunman.

Denise Berry was driving in Hawthorne with her son about 12:40 p.m. Wednesday when he pointed out that the man’s feet were hanging out of the window of a Cadillac and said “that’s kind of funny,” said Lt. Dave Coleman of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.

The mother and son shared a chuckle. At some point, the boy made eye contact with the shooter.

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“That’s not a reason to go out and murder someone,” Coleman told The Times.

The Cadillac followed Berry’s Mercedes-Benz until she spotted a Hawthorne police officer in the 14200 block of Kornblum Avenue, according to the Sheriff’s Department.

The 44-year-old mother of three told the officer the Cadillac was following them. The officer asked Berry to pull her car in front of his cruiser so he could help her.

The Cadillac pulled up next to her, and the shooter, identified as 38-year-old Robert Washington, stepped out of the car and began firing at Berry and her son, the Sheriff’s Department said.

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The officer jumped out of his patrol car and fired at Washington, killing him.

Berry was struck by the gunfire and died. Her son was shot, but was able to run away. He was in stable condition at a hospital.

“He watched his mother murdered in front of him,” Coleman said. “That’s horrific.”

Stanley White, 24, who was driving the Cadillac, was arrested and charged in connection with the fatal shooting. Another passenger, Brandon White, 19, also was arrested but is unlikely to be charged, authorities said.

Sheriff’s investigators say there is no indication the mother and Washington had been in contact prior to Wednesday. Coleman said Washington had a lengthy criminal history.

Berry had worked as a Metro bus driver for four years.

The Metro Bus Division planned to raise its memorial flags Friday in honor of Berry, and a prayer service will be held at 6 p.m. at the scene of the shooting, Metro spokesman Dave Sotero said.

Grief counselors were also expected to talk with employees Friday. 

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“We are greatly saddened to learn about the loss of one of our operators,” he said. “Denise was part of the Metro family for nearly five years. We extend our heartfelt condolences to her loved ones for this tragic loss.”

For breaking news in California, follow @VeronicaRochaLA


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