Police: Suspected Hillcrest shooter had previous murder arrest

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SAN DIEGO -- The 29-year-old man suspected of firing 19 rounds into a Hillcrest restaurant Tuesday night had previously been arrested for a murder in Alabama, officials said Wednesday.

Nine people were inside The Asian Bistro at the time of the shooting, but miraculously no one was hurt. Police identified the suspected gunman as Stefano Markell Parker, who had recently moved to San Diego from Alabama.

Police have not shared a suspected motive for the attack, but in a press conference late Wednesday afternoon, officials said they are investigating whether to consider the shooting a hate crime.

Police referenced a "disturbing Facebook posting," made by Parker as part of the evidence they will consider. Two weeks before the attack, Parker appeared to post a negative message about the LGBTQ community. Around 1 p.m. on the day of the attack, he posted a lengthy message questioning the nature of life and freedom.

Parker was charged with capital murder in Alabama when he was 16 after a shooting killed a 14-year-old, according to AL.com. In 2006, he pleaded guilty to felony murder and was sentenced to 20 years in prison with four years to serve, AL.com reported.

In 2017, Parker was arrested on drug charges, AL.com reported.

Witnesses first reported a man wearing a trench coat and carrying a rifle near University and Fourth avenues, an area lined with restaurants and bars, around 7:30 p.m., San Diego Police Officer John Buttle said. At some point, the man walked up to The Asian Bistro and started firing into the restaurant, then lowered the gun and walked away.

The rounds shattered windows at the restaurant and some people inside reported being hit by shattered glass, but any wounds were minor, Lt. Andra Brown said. Investigators at the shooting scene found at least 19 "assault rifle-caliber" shell casings, Brown said.

After the shooting, officers began searching the area for the suspect with the help of a police helicopter. A witness told officers he saw a man changing his clothes and the witness was able to provide officers with a new clothing description, Buttle said.

Before the suspect was arrested, an officer found clothing matching those worn by the suspect discarded in an alley, Brown said.

Officers located the suspect and arrested him on suspicion of attempted murder around 9 p.m., Officer Dino Delimitros said.  A short time later, police found an AR-15 rifle and magazines for the weapon nearby.

Parker was booked in the San Diego Central Jail at 3:40 a.m. Wednesday, according to San Diego County Sheriff's Department website. He was being held without bail.

Parker faces nine counts of attempted murder and felony possession of a firearm charges.

Anyone with information about the shooting was asked to call San Diego police at 619-531-2000 or San Diego County Crime Stoppers at 888-580-8477.

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