‘I feel sick’: Owner shaken by damage to bullet-riddled Hillcrest restaurant

SAN DIEGO -- The owner of a restaurant in the heart of Hillcrest was still shaken Wednesday, a day after a man fired 19 shots at his restaurant, miraculously missing all of the people inside.

San Diego police said Stefano Parker, 29, fired at least 19 shots outside the Asian Bistro at 414 University Avenue before taking off.

Witnesses made 911 calls to report seeing a man in a trench coat firing numerous rounds from a rifle into the restaurant about 7:40 p.m. Following the barrage of gunshots, the shooter lowered his weapon and walked off, Officer John Buttle said. Parker was arrested without incident Tuesday night, about 90 minutes after the shooting.

Restaurant owner Mike Tamarkin said he and his mother, who is a co-owner, were not there Tuesday night when bullets started flying. He said seeing pictures and hearing the stories from friends made them emotional.

“I still feel sick. Crazy, crazy experience,” Tamarkin said. “The manager on duty said some guy was outside the patio and shot three warning shots up towards the ceiling. Everyone immediately ducked down and dropped to the floor.”

“[The manager] said when she was coming out she was almost sure everyone was dead. That’s how quiet it was,” Tamarkin said.

Tamarkin showed FOX 5 how close the bullets came to hitting the nine people who were inside. One tore a hole in a menu and another hit a seat that he said a customer had just got up from.

“Thank God everyone is not hurt and it’s just a miracle really,” Tamarkin said.

Not long after police arrived they found Parker and a trail of evidence, including clothes and a rifle.

According to the Birmingham News, Parker was charged with murder in a 2005 drive-by shooting that killed a 14-year-old boy. Parker was reportedly sentenced to 20 years in prison, but only served four years.

Tamarkin said the motive in Tuesday night's shooting was not clear, but he thinks he saw Parker just days before.

“I could see all the way from the front of the restaurant that there was a brawl or something going down in the middle of the street and then after everything settled," Tamarkin said. "I went out to see if anyone was left and it was that guy. We made eye contact and I asked him, 'Hey are you okay? Everything alright?’ And he was stumbling, incoherent and had a creepy grin on his face."

Detectives said they are looking into whether the shooting was a hate crime after reading what they call "disturbing" Facebook posts on Parker’s page.

Parker was booked into San Diego Central Jail on suspicion of nine counts of attempted murder and one count each of being a felon in possession of a firearm and using a firearm in the commission of a felony. He was being held without bail pending arraignment, scheduled for Friday afternoon.

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