By Neal Putnam
It is still not clear yet what the motivation was to fire 19 gunshots into a Hillcrest restaurant, but suspected gunman Stefano Markell Parker, 29, was charged Feb. 15 with 11 counts of pre-meditated attempted murder.
None of the 11 people inside The Asian Bistro on Feb. 12 at 7:40 p.m. were hit by bullets, and everyone remained on the floor, which was covered with shattered glass.
“It is miraculous that no one was injured,” said Deputy District Attorney Paul Reizen after Friday’s arraignment.
“He was aiming at people inside the restaurant,” he continued. “The motive is unknown.
Hours before the shooting, Parker posted on his Facebook page a rambling series of comments that started with the question, “How many of us fell victim to the streets?”
An earlier Facebook post suggests that this could be considered a hate crime.
“Who told all these gayfers it was safe to come outside…..?” Parker wrote in a Facebook post on Jan. 31.
Hate crime charges were not filed in the attack, but Reizen said they would be if there is any evidence the attack was directed toward the gay community or the Asian community.
The restaurant, located at 414 University Ave., is also known as Golden Dragon, and its iconic sign still remains intact. After the shooting, plywood covered the broken windows and there were bullet holes in the walls inside. The restaurant plans to re-open on Monday, Feb. 18.
Witnesses reported seeing a man in a trench coat firing a high-powered rifle at the restaurant and then walking away. He was then seen changing his clothes. Parker was arrested about four blocks away and an AR-15 was found nearby along with discarded clothes.
Reizen would not disclose what offense Parker had previously been convicted of before the incident. Published reports say Parker was convicted of a felony charge when he was 16 years old in Alabama, which involved the death of another teenager.
If he is convicted of all charges, Parker faces a staggering prison term. Reizen said Parker faces 154 years plus 200 years consecutively if he receives life sentences for the attempted murder charges.
In court, Parker told San Diego Superior Court Judge Jay Bloom he wouldn’t sign a court form acknowledging his constitutional rights, so Bloom read the form out loud to him.
Reizen asked that no bail be set for Parker. His attorney, Tom Carnessale, submitted no argument, so Bloom ordered him to be held in jail without bail.
A preliminary hearing was set for March 1, and it will last two days.
In addition to the shooting, it was a rough week for the LGBT community. An unknown individual vandalized two plaques beneath the pride flag on University Avenue and Normal Street. The pride flag was also ripped down Feb. 10 in the evening at the Metropolitan Community Church (MCC), and three masked gunmen held up a Hillcrest jewelry store the next day.
Lee Bowman, communication minister for MCC, said a hate crime report was filed with San Diego Police for the flag’s removal, which was captured on video surveillance cameras. A replacement flag was put up.
The violence at the restaurant prompted condemnation from Mayor Kevin Falconer, California Senate President Toni Atkins, and a joint statement from Council members Chris Ward, Georgette Gomez and Jennifer Campbell.
“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,” said Ward, Gomez and Campbell in a press release.
“As members of the LGBTQIA community and the City Council, we stand united against these acts of violence and hate,” the press release continued. “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.”
“We must stand strong and repudiate these homophobic and hateful attacks,” Atkins added.
—Neal Putman can be reached at email@example.com.