Mark Parkinson

Mark Parkinson

Authorities continue to investigate an officer-involved shooting that left a Walker County man dead and lingering questions about the emergency phone call that led to the fatal incident.

In the early morning hours of New Year's Day, a woman called 911 saying that a female at a residence at 147 Meadowview Lane in Rossville was threatening to kill herself and her children, according to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, which is investigating the incident.

Three deputies arrived and announced several times that they were from the Walker County Sheriff’s Department, authorities said.

Sixty-five-year-old Mark Parkinson was spotted in the kitchen carrying a handgun. Parkinson pointed the weapon at Deputy John Chandler, who then fired several shots, killing Parkinson, authorities said.

Greg Ramey, special agent in charge at the GBI's Calhoun office, said Parkinson was seen in the kitchen, near a counter, and pointing a gun through a kitchen window at the deputy outside of the house, Ramey said.

Ramey said Parkinson was aware someone was outside the house.

Parkinson was in the kitchen 15-30 seconds before the deputy fired the shots, Ramey said. The encounter between Parkinson and Chandler was a quick exchange, he said.

Ramey said other family members in the residence were awake during the shooting and in relatively close proximity to the kitchen area where Parkinson was shot.

Ramey said lights were on inside the Parkinson residence, including the kitchen, at the time of the shooting. Also, outside motion-sensitive security lights were on, he said.

Chandler was less than a dozen feet from the window when he fired, Ramey said. Another deputy was to Chandler's right at a side door, while the third deputy was at the front door, he said.

Ramey said Chandler was not banging on the window, as has been reported by news organizations. He was banging on the structure of the residence, which is standard procedure, Ramey said.

Ramey said Dorothy Gass, the mother-in-law to the daughter of the victim, placed the 911 call. Investigators now have to determine if the call was made maliciously or in good faith.

Deputies on paid leave

According to Walker County Sheriff Steve Wilson, all three deputies are on administrative leave with pay.

Chandler began his career with the sheriff's department in April 2017, Wilson said.

Chandler served six years in law enforcement prior to joining the Walker County Sheriff's Department. He served with the Chattooga County Sheriff's Department and the Polk County Police Department, Wilson said.

The three deputies will undergo critical incident stress debriefing, which is standard in such cases, Maj. Mike Freeman said.

The three deputies will remain on leave until the investigation is complete, Freeman said.

Attorney gives additional details

The attorney for a Parkinson's daughter, Amy Gass, said Amy was one of several family members inside the residence when three Walker County deputies arrived.

Attorney Larry Stagg of Ringgold is representing Amy Gass in her divorce from her estranged husband Steven Gass.

Stagg said that, at the time of the incident, five people were inside the house: Parkinson, his wife Diana, Amy and her two children, a 6-year-old and a 16-year-old. Amy and her children were staying with her parents during the divorce proceedings, he said.

Stagg said they were asleep when Parkinson heard their three dogs barking from inside the residence. Parkinson retrieved his firearm for protection, Stagg said. Parkinson and his wife Diana then went into the kitchen area and heard someone banging, Stagg said.

Within seconds, three shots were fired, with one striking Parkinson's jugular vein (throat area), causing him to bleed to death, the lawyer said.

Diana called for Amy to come downstairs and call 911, he said. Amy, a registered nurse, began to administer aid to her father by applying pressure to his neck, Stagg said.

Stagg said the family waited 3-5 minutes until paramedics and law enforcement arrived, believing that an unknown assailant had shot and killed Parkinson through the kitchen window. Stagg said no one in the family heard the knocking on the door or the three deputies announcing their arrival.

Stagg said Parkinson and Diana did not see law enforcement outside the residence and, to their knowledge, an unknown someone was simply banging at 3 a.m.

Stagg said Amy does not know why her mother-in-law called 911 and reported that she was threatening to kill herself and her children.

Stagg said family members say the three deputies did not enter the residence after the shots were fired. He said it's standard procedure, in such cases, for law enforcement to enter the residence to provide aid and secure the area.

When more law enforcement arrived after the Parkinsons called 911, no one told them it that a deputy had fired the fatal shots, Stagg said.

One hour later, Diana was taken to the Rossville Police Department to be interviewed, which is when she learned from the GBI that the shots that killed her husband came from Chandler, Stagg said.

"It's a horrible circumstance," Stagg said.

Past domestic dispute

Stagg said Amy's estranged husband, Steven Gass, is contesting the couple's divorce.

Amy was granted, in a hearing for temporary custody, full custody of the children, Stagg said. Steven was denied overnight stay with the children due to past erratic and abusive behavior toward his wife, he said.

According to an incident report by the Catoosa County Sheriff's Department:

A domestic disturbance occurred May 6, 2012, at the couple's residence on Cloud Springs Road in Rossville, in which Amy claims Steven was being aggressive late that evening, cursing her and began to grab her arm.

Amy told Steven he was hurting her, to which he replied, "I mean to" and began to push her, causing her to fall backwards and hit her arm on the kitchen counter.

Amy told police she was afraid of repercussions because her husband has multiple friends in Dade, Walker and Catoosa counties.

Damage to the residence was reported, including holes in the wall and damaged items inside the residence.

Police reported visible red marks and bruising on Amy. Due to pain following the incident, Amy had her arm X-rayed to make sure it was not broken.

The couple eventually reconciled, Stagg said.

Josh O'Bryant is a general assignment reporter and covers the Walker-Catoosa County area. He can be reached at the Walker County Messenger office at 706-638-1859 and by email at jobryant@npco.com.