SAN DIEGO, Calif. – A shooting February 12 in San Diego’s tony Hillcrest neighborhood has left the city’s LGBTQ community shaken. A San Diego Police Department spokesperson confirmed to the Los Angeles Blade that the suspect, Stefano Markell Parker, 29, was in custody, accused of firing nearly twenty rounds from a rifle into the Golden Dragon Asian Bistro on University Avenue Tuesday evening. Nine customers and some employees were inside the restaurant at the time of the shooting, but no one was injured.
Parker was wearing a trench coat when he walked up to the business at 414 University Ave. near Fourth Avenue at about 7:40 p.m. and opened fire. After firing nearly two dozen rounds, he “lowered the rifle and calmly walked away,” San Diego Police Department spokesperson officer John Buttle said, adding that SDPD investigators located 19, 5.66 caliber weapon casings outside of the restaurant, which was riddled with bullet holes. SDSP detectives say Parker fled down a nearby alley where another witness saw him taking off his clothes.
SDPD Assistant Chief Al Guaderrama told reporters in a press conference that Parker had made a “disturbing” Facebook post prior to the shooting, but said investigators have more evidence to process before determining it a hate crime. “We have a tremendous amount of evidence that we need to go through before we make the determination that it was a hate crime,” Guaderrama said. He added that he could not say whether or not the shooting was premeditated.
During an interview with San Diego NBC7 news, the owner of the restaurant said he didn’t recognize Parker, but a family member of the owner Mike Tamarkin said Wednesday that he recognized Parker from an incident at the restaurant last weekend. Tamarkin said he saw a photo of the suspect and realized he had been in a fight with a group of Asian Americans outside the Golden Dragon last Sunday.
“He was just mumbling something incoherent and giving me a weird look and gave me a weird feeling so I was like, screw this and went back inside the restaurant,” Tamarkin said.
Tamarkin said he too saw the homophobic social media posts allegedly made by the suspect, calling them “sad” and “terrible.”
The shooting has the Hillcrest community further on edge, especially after an act of vandalism last week damaged the Pride Monument a landmark of Hillcrest on University Avenue and Normal Street.
Mayor Kevin Faulconer, also present at the press conference told reporters that he has asked the police department to increase patrols in the Hillcrest neighborhood.
“We pride ourselves in San Diego for being a very diverse city and a city that celebrates unique culture. That is never going to change,” said Faulconer. “We will stand together to denounce violence and we will stand together to support our brothers and sisters in the LGBTQ community.”
San Diego City Council members Chris Ward (District 3), Jennifer Campbell (District 2) and Council President Georgette Gomez (District 9) issued a joint statement Wednesday regarding the shooting and other recent crime in the Hillcrest community.
“Over the past week, we have seen an increase in crime and violence in a community that has historically identified as LGBTQIA+. From the cowardly vandalism of Pride Plaza to last night’s shooting on University Avenue, it is clear that more must be done to address the rising public safety concerns of our residents. As members of the LGBTQIA+ community and the City Council, we stand united against these acts of violence and hate. What is meant to silence our community will only make us stronger, and we look forward to using that strength to work with the Mayor’s office and the San Diego Police Department to ensure we truly are a city that is safe for all.”
Guaderrama told reporters that SDPD investigators have not determined how Parker obtained the rifle used, but said that it was not registered to him and had not been reported stolen.
Guaderrama also related the fact that Parker’s criminal history includes an arrest and conviction for homicide in Alabama several years ago. He said that the crime occurred between 2000 and 2003 but that Parker only served four or five years behind bars for the crime.
“There could’ve been lives lost yesterday – and I think everybody realizes that,” Guaderrama said.
He added that the department will not release more details of the shooting as it could hinder the investigation, which Guaderrama said will last days and consist of interviewing a number of witnesses and processing surveillance video.
Parker is facing nine counts of attempted murder, one count of using a firearm in the commission of a felony and one count of a felon in possession of a firearm. No other suspects are involved in the case the Assistant Chief said.