The four police officers who shot and killed two people inside a vehicle during a gunfight in a convenience store parking lot didn't realize there was an infant in the back seat of the car until after the gunfire stopped, police said Tuesday.
Angelo Delano Perry, a 35-year-old Virginia Beach resident with an extensive criminal history, and 28-year-old postal carrier India Kager of College Park, Maryland, were shot to death Saturday night less than 15 seconds after officers approached the parked vehicle they were in. The couple's 4-month old son, Roman, was sitting in the rear of the vehicle in a car seat and escaped uninjured, said Virginia Beach Police Chief Jim Cervera.
Perry had been under surveillance for about 30 minutes on the night of the shooting, Cervera said at a news conference. The police chief said Perry was a person of interest in a homicide investigation and that police had received information he may have been about to commit a violent act. Cervera did not say what, specifically, police thought Perry was about to do, and did not provide any details about the homicide investigation.
"In essence, the officers put themselves in harm's way to prevent another act of violence," he said. "Our officers did everything they could to try and circumvent any kind of violent confrontation."
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Perry fired four rounds at officers as they approached the vehicle, including one that struck an officer's clothing, but did not hit his body, Cervera said. He said the officers returned 30 rounds of fire at Perry and unintentionally also hit Kager, who was in the driver's seat.
Police found two guns and the child in the car after the shooting ended, Cervera said. The officers, who have between nine and 17 years of experience, were part of a special operations unit and were not wearing body cameras, he said.
Perry was recently released from prison after serving 12 years of a 13-year prison sentence on a malicious-wounding charge for shooting someone in the back. Court records show he also was charged with assaulting a police officer in 2000. In 2013, Perry was denied parole, in part, because he had a history of drug use and violent crimes and was considered a threat to society.
Each of the officers involved in Saturday's shooting has been placed on administrative duty while the shooting is investigated by the police department and the commonwealth attorney's office, Cervera said. He declined to release the identities of the officers, saying the police department had received threats. Perry and Kager were black; the four officers are white.
Kager's mother, Gina Best, said in a telephone interview from her home in Columbia, Maryland, on Tuesday that it would have made more sense for police to wait until her daughter and her grandson were out of the car to apprehend Perry and that she doesn't believe that her daughter knew what Perry may have been involved in.
"My greatest fear is it will be doctored ... to make India seem like she's part of dark behavior. India was not of that element," Best said. "Her upbringing, everything about my daughter — she walked the straight and narrow. She was a wonderful person."
Best said Kager's father and grandfather were both retired police officers in Washington, and Best said Kager was quiet, introverted and artistically talented. She said Kager attended the Duke Ellington School for the Arts in Washington before she followed in the footsteps of her older brother and joined the military.
Military records show Kager was in the Navy from 2009 to 2013 and served as a culinary specialist. She was briefly attached to the Naval Aviation Technical Training Center in Pensacola, Florida, in 2010 before moving to Virginia Beach, where she was attached to two strike fighter squadrons for the remainder of career.
The Navy said she was awarded a ribbon for pistol marksmanship and medals for good conduct and serving in the global war on terrorism.
The US Postal Service said Kager had been working as a carrier in Bethesda, Maryland, since August.
Best said her daughter had only been in Virginia Beach for a few hours the night of the shooting. While she said Kager and Perry were romantically involved, she said she had never met him before and knew little about him.
"I'm devastated because she should still be alive nursing her son, my grandson," she said. "We're talking about a very beautiful soul that should still be here. She was unarmed, she was completely innocent. They shot indiscriminately."
Best said Kager also had a 4-year-old son with a man she had been married to in Florida.