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Man Police Killed Called 'Disturbed'

December 14, 1987|CARLA RIVERA | Times Staff Writer

A Costa Mesa man who was fatally shot by police this weekend was a lonely, disturbed individual who had suffered from cancer and exhibited increasingly violent and threatening behavior during the last several years, his friends and neighbors said Sunday.

Costa Mesa police identified the man as Donald R. Parker, 49, who lived by himself in a small duplex apartment in the 1800 block of Wallace Avenue. Parker was pronounced dead on arrival Saturday at Hoag Memorial Hospital Presbyterian in Newport Beach of gunshot wounds to the chest, a nursing supervisor said.

The shooting occurred about 5:50 p.m. after police responded to a call by an unidentified neighbor about a disturbance. According to police accounts, two officers knocked on Parker's door. When Parker opened the door, he allegedly was pointing a gun at them. Both officers fired at him.

Police would not say how many shots were fired. Nor would they say whether Parker returned fire. They also withheld names of the two officers.

Costa Mesa Police Lt. Cliff McBride said both officers have been released temporarily from active duty and will undergo counseling.

Costa Mesa police and the Orange County district attorney's office are investigating the shooting, McBride said.

Neighbors interviewed Sunday gave similar accounts of the shooting.

Wanda and Dick Sheets, who live on Weelo Drive, around the corner from Parker, said they heard about five shots. The Sheets said they heard officers identify themselves and demand that Parker lay down his weapon. They said they heard one shot, a pause, then four more shots in quick succession.

Before the shooting began, Wanda Sheets said an officer knocked on the bedroom window of her daughter, Laurie Birdwell, who lives in the house next to her, and told her to get down.

After the shooting, Birdwell and her family looked through the window and saw Parker lying in the doorway, his head inside the apartment and feet on the doorsill.

The Sheetses, who said they knew Parker only casually, said he occasionally would say hello but mostly kept to himself. They said there had been previous incidents in which Parker would emerge from his home shouting and waving a gun, but to their knowledge police had not been called before.

"I would say that the police were completely justified in what they did," Wanda Sheets said.

The front of Parker's apartment was pocked Sunday with what appeared to be at least five bullet holes. A small sports car parked directly across from the blood-splattered front door also was visibly damaged by gunfire. At the rear of the building, a bedroom window was shattered.

A bullet hit the wall of a garage of another Weelo Drive resident, Louvicie Easterling. Easterling said she had just left the garage when shots rang out. She said she thinks she heard six bursts of gunfire, one right after another.

Michael Lewis, who lives in the house in front of Parker, said Parker had become increasingly more aggressive in recent months and had verbally abused neighbors.

Lewis said he had known Parker for about 16 years and had once counted him among his best friends, before Parker's personality changes drove a wedge between them. They worked together at the Container Corp. of America, where Parker was a forklift driver until he retired several years ago. Since his retirement, Parker had worked as a delivery driver for a Santa Ana bagel company, Lewis said.

Lewis said he began noticing changes in Parker after the second of two operations for intestinal cancer nearly five years ago. Chemotherapy treatments contributed to Parker's bouts of heavy drinking, Lewis said.

"He was a lonely, disturbed man," Lewis said. "He would just have rages and would be in and out of reality for periods of time. It finally got to a point where I told him to stay away. I'm surprised the police weren't called before.

"It's sad, because he used to be a sweet, gentle person," Lewis said.

Parker was divorced and had several children, Lewis said. His mother and at least one brother and sister live in Los Angeles, he said.

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