By Neal Putnam
Stefano Markell Parker didn’t give an explanation as to why he fired 19 shots into a Hillcrest restaurant in 2019 before he was sentenced Jan. 14, 2022 to 49 years in state prison.
Wearing a green jail uniform, Parker, 32, said nothing before San Diego Superior Court Judge Fred Link imposed 49 years in which he will have to serve 85% of the term before he can be paroled.
Parker miraculously missed all 11 customers and seven employees inside the Asian Bistro, bursting out all the windows while standing in a trench coat on University Avenue across the street from the restaurant’s Golden Dragon iconic sign at 7:40 p.m.
“I feel this is the proper sentence,” said Link. “He endangered a lot of the public.”
The judge said the question of why Parker fired the shots remains unknown, but he had a history of “mental problems in Alabama that were not taken care of.”
So the motive still appears to be hatred of gay people—given what Parker wrote about LGBTQ people on his Facebook account. Parker apparently misunderstood a standard welcoming message the restaurant had on its website during pride week.
“Who told all these gayfers it was safe to come outside…?” wrote Parker two weeks before the shooting.
“Nothing against gay dudes but (obscenity) they look at you…when they know you don’t swing they(sic) way,” he wrote.
Parker was convicted of murder when he was 16 years old in Jefferson, Alabama in the death of James Ware, another teenager, in a drive-by shooting on Dec. 29, 2005, according to his probation report.
Parker was sentenced to approximately four years in custody for the slaying. The sentencing report didn’t specify whether he was the driver or the gunman.
The only injury to someone in the restaurant occurred when a bullet struck a plate and the plate hit a woman in the head. She and the others were crouched down on the floor for a long time after the shooting started.
“It was the longest night of her life,” wrote a sentencing official who interviewed the woman.
Parker used a Ruger AR-556 rifle which was found several blocks from the scene, according to the probation report. Police arrested Parker a few blocks away.
He was given credits for serving 1,227 days in jail since his arrest. Parker didn’t make a statement to sentencing officials.
Parker pleaded guilty to five counts of assault with a deadly weapon. Eleven counts of attempted murder, firing into an occupied building, and felon in possession of a firearm were dismissed on Oct. 22.
With the 49-year sentence, Parker will have to serve almost 42 actual years before he can be paroled around age 70.
Early in his case, Parker was found to be mentally incompetent to stand trial and he was sent to Patton State Hospital for treatment and medication. Doctors there determined he had regained his competency and he was returned to San Diego.
A Superior Court judge found Parker to be mentally fit on April 21, 2021, according to court records.
— Neal Putnam is a local court reporter.