The man who pleaded guilty to opening fire at a Hillcrest restaurant while employees and diners were inside was sentenced on Friday to 49 years in prison.
Stefano Parker appeared at the San Diego Central Courthouse Friday morning to learn his fate after pleading guilty to five charges of assault with a semiautomatic weapon for shooting close to 20 shots at The Asian Bistro. San Diego police said the defendant approached the University Avenue eatery at about 7:40 p.m. in February 2019 and began to open fire in the restaurant from the street.
Bullets shattered the restaurant’s windows but fortunately, no one was shot.
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"It’s quite a blessing that with that much – with that hail of gunfire that went out – that nobody was hit,” SDPD Lt. Andra Brown told NBC 7 shortly after the shooting happened.
Authorities said Parker “lowered the rifle and calmly walked away” after shooting up the restaurant. He was found a short time later after a trail of evidence led police to an alley and the defendant was subsequently arrested.
San Diego Superior Court Judge Frederick Link said he believes Parker had unresolved mental health issues prior to arriving in California. Before the defendant moved to the west coast, he had a murder conviction out of Alabama in 2006 when he was a juvenile. In that case, he was sentenced to 20 years but served four.
"I think a lot of Mr. Parker’s problems -- some mental problems -- that he’s been working with over the years that were not taken care of in Alabama...he wasn’t taken care of and he came to California and he did what he did," Judge Link said during the sentencing.
Law enforcement said they hadn’t determined a motive for the shooting, but added that Parker made anti-gay posts on social media. He, however, was not charged with any hate crimes.
"He committed a very serious crime, he endangered a lot of people," the judge said. "Thank God that nobody was injured. I mean, I can’t believe it. I can’t believe it. All those shots in place with all those people and nobody was injured."
Parker was denied probation during his sentencing and credited with 1,227 days served.