On Jan. 11, 2018, Angel DeCarlo wrote in her journal, “The day was awesome. First I took a nap and then thought about my plans for the year! To get married and have a kid. Also have a job!”
Eleven months later, she was shot and killed by the police, her life cut short. She was 31 years old.
Ange DeCarlo had many dreams. Dancing, singing, and modeling were some of her favorite activities. She sang in churches, clubs, and some outdoor events. One year, she went to audition for the reality TV show America’s Next Top Model. She made the cut, and was going to head to New York for the next round.
“She had gotten her things together. And something interrupted it but she was supposed to go and she was really excited about it because it was one of her goals,” says her mother, Emily DeCarlo. “And she had many great goals.”
DeCarlo was also trained in ballet at the Richmond School of Ballet and choreographed her own moves when she performed at churches around the Tri-Cities and beyond.
“And I love to see the response from the people. They would clap. Her purpose was to make them smile and to make them feel better than they felt before they saw her,” says her mother.
Emily keeps Angel’s ballet shoes on top of the dresser in her daughter’s now vacant room.
“She would tell me all the time that she loved me,” she said.
Emily describes her daughter as someone who was vibrant, someone who loved people. DeCarlo graduated from James River High School and later got a job working as a supervisor at Grace Family Services helping people with special needs.
“She enjoyed taking them to church in the van,” Emily said. “I just remember her talking about her clients with love. And the progress and saw them make, it made her happy.”
For her 29th birthday, Emily and DeCarlo’s father threw her a surprise party at the community center. Friends and family came to celebrate her. DeCarlo’s face was beaming with joy as people came up to speak a blessing over her. One minister said she had the “voice of an angel.”
“[She was] a person with hope, a person that had plans,” Emily said. “It was sad because I knew that she would never get to reach those goals.”
DeCarlo was shot and killed on Dec. 18, 2018. There had been a robbery at Petrol Midget Mart, a convenience store in Hopewell. An employee reported that a Black female had stolen $100 from the store and police arrived at the scene around 11:10 am.
That’s when the police spotted DeCarlo nearby, who they say matched the description of the suspect.
According to the police, they ordered her to stop several times as she was running, claiming that she then turned and pointed a gun at the police. Detective Cameron List fired one shot to her chest, fatally wounding her.
At Hopewell’s request, the investigation into DeCarlo’s death was immediately turned over to the Virginia State Police. The VSP then gave their findings to Hopewell’s Commonwealth Attorney Richard Newman in April 2019. Newman recused himself from the case for objectivity’s sake, and the investigation was turned over to Portsmouth Commonwealth Attorney Stephanie Morales on May 9.
After three years of investigations, the case is still ongoing. Morales says that she can’t provide a specific timeline to when her office will wrap up the investigation.
“We do have some things that are outstanding, additional meetings that we need to have and additional information that we are seeking,” Morales said. “What we are working on is something that is actually important to the investigation and the outcome.”
The last update her office gave to the public about the investigation was over a year and a half ago, when they had received supplemental information from the Virginia State Police on Mar. 20, 2020. The press release stated that they were going to review the materials to see if more information was needed or whether they would take prosecutorial action.
Many questions remain unanswered.
Detective List, who was put on administrative leave after the shooting, is apparently now back on the workforce even though the case has not yet been closed.
“She’s deeply missed,” said DeCarlo’s friend Shakela Raphael. “I think about it a lot, that such a beautiful soul would be killed in this manner. She didn’t deserve to lose her life. She deserves justice.”
“I accept the fact that I’m traumatized,” said Emily, her voice breaking. “But I keep trying to have goals like she did. My faith helps me because I believe in the scripture that says God will turn things around for your good. I remember my purpose to honor Angel by still keep going.”
The week before she died, Emily recalls having a conversation with her daughter about prayer and about God.
“And then I prayed for her, a blessing on her. She was a very spiritual person.”
They were conversing about Emily’s mother’s birthday that was upcoming on Dec. 18 — the same day that DeCarlo was killed.
If DeCarlo were still here, Emily said that she would want to tell her daughter that she is proud of her.
“This is something I said to her, I used to say all the time; ‘I don’t know what I would be doing if I didn’t have you.’
“It is hard because I never thought in a million years that that would be a reality.”
Joyce Chu is the Social Justice Watchdog Reporter for The Progress Index. Contact her at Jchu1@gannett.com or on Twitter @joyce_speaks.