By Neal Putnam
Criminal proceedings were suspended for a Hillcrest restaurant shooting suspect after his attorney said he doubted the man was mentally competent to understand court proceedings.
Stefano Markell Parker, 29, remains in jail while he undergoes mental competency tests by psychologists. They will write a report and send it to a judge for determination if he should be sent to a psychiatric facility to help him regain his mental competency.
Parker is charged with 11 counts of attempted murder — one count for each person who was inside the Asian Bistro restaurant on Feb. 12 at 7:40 p.m., when he is alleged to have fired 19 shots through the glass windows.
Miraculously, no was injured as everyone ducked down and remained on the floor in the restaurant at 414 University Ave., which is also known as the Golden Dragon with its iconic sign left intact.
Parker faced a preliminary hearing on April 12, but now faces a mental competency hearing on May 29 in San Diego Superior Court. If the judge finds he is mentally unable to understand the charges against him, he will be sent to a psychiatric facility. If he’s competent, criminal proceedings will resume.
The motive of the shooting isn’t known but Parker posted a comment on Facebook that asked, “Who told all these gaffers it was safe to come outside …?” on Jan. 3. He posted a rambling message on Facebook some hours before the shooting, and as of April 6, 406 people made comments on his page, mostly critical.
An employee of Asian Bistro posted on Parker’s Facebook page and asked people to stop posting angry comments back and forth to some of Parker’s family members and friends from Alabama, who also posted.
The restaurant is very close to the iconic Hillcrest sign and Parker earlier made some critical comments about gay men, which other posters have repeated, causing new rounds of public comment on Parker’s page.
San Diego Police arrested Parker minutes after the shooting. The shooter’s trench coat and other clothes were found elsewhere along with an AR-15 rifle.
The restaurant opened about a week later after all the windows were replaced and the damages repaired.
Parker is also charged with shooting into an occupied building. If convicted of all charges, he faces a prison term of 154 years plus life sentences for pre-meditated attempted murder.
(Graphic by www.CanStockPhoto.com)
— Neal Putnam is a local freelance writer. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.