A grand jury Tuesday, Sept. 4, cleared Walker County Deputy John Chandler of any charges related to a New Year’s Day fatal shooting prompted by a 911 call later deemed a false report.
The jury reviewed the evidence in the case and agreed with a January internal investigation by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation and Sheriff’s Department, which found Chandler did not commit any crimes or violate any department policies in the shooting. The jury said he did not act with criminal intent when he shot Mark Parkinson through a window during a call to Parkinson’s Rossville home.
According to Parkinson’s wife, Diane, her husband walked into the kitchen with a handgun after hearing a commotion outside and his dogs barking. Seeing the gun, Deputy Chandler shot three times through the window from the porch and killed him, as one bullet severed Parkin-son’s jugular vein.
“He meant to do me harm,” Chandler said during the internal affairs investigation.
“We recognized it was a tragic, tragic situation,” Sheriff Steve Wilson told the Chattanooga Times Free Press Wednesday, Sept. 5. “We still support the facts that the officer acted within policy and within the laws of the state.”
Offices responded to a 911 call that a woman inside threatened to kill her children and herself. The call, by Dorothy Gass, mother-in-law of Parkinson's daughter, Amy Gass, was not legitimate, GBI agents later determined. It was part of a custody dispute.
Gass was originally charged by the GBI of intentionally filing a false report, was arrested and released pending her trial. Walker County State Court Judge Billy Mullinax dropped the false report charge on June 13 after a GBI agent did not show up on Gass's court date.
Agent Greg Ramey said his office wrote Mullinax a letter, asking him to push the court date back because the investigating agent was out of town that particular day. Ramey said his office didn't hear back from Mullinax and learned several weeks later that Mullinax had dropped the charge.
State Court Solicitor Chris Townley told the Chattanooga Times Free Press again Wednesday that the case is essentially dead because of a legal technicality. Townley, who took office Sept. 1, worked at the same law firm as an attorney representing Dorothy Gass's son in his divorce to Amy Gass.
Townley said, therefore, that he is not allowed to touch the case, alt-hough another prosecutor could re-open the case and Townley could recuse himself. However, he explained for the Times Free Press, since the charge against Gass of filing a false report was already dropped, even re-opening her case would require action by him.