Suspect in Colo church shooting had been in prison

Apr 25, 2012, 4:06 AM

Associated Press

AURORA, Colo. (AP) – A man who shot and killed a woman at a Colorado church before he was killed by an off-duty police officer had been released early from an Oklahoma prison after serving time for assaulting two officers, authorities said Tuesday.

Aurora police identified the suspect as Kiarron Parker, 29, of Denver. His lawyer said Parker was convicted in 2009 in Oklahoma for assaulting two police officers and for burglary, but he also had a crime record in Colorado.

Before the Colorado shooting Sunday, Parker had been parked somewhere with a friend when he became agitated, hopped in his vehicle and drove off, leaving the friend behind, Aurora police spokesman Frank Fania said Tuesday.

Parker sped into the parking lot of New Destiny Center church in Aurora, crashed into a car, then fired at people who came to his aid. The shooting killed Josephine Echols, the mother of a pastor at the church, police said. Echols’ nephew Antonio Milow, an off-duty Denver police officer who was attending a church service, then shot and killed Parker, authorities said.

“Who knows what would’ve happened if the officer had not been there. It certainly could have been a lot worse,” Fania said.

Investigators do not know what upset Parker, but it didn’t appear that Parker and his friend were arguing, Fania said.

“It’s quite possible that we may never know why he jumped out of the car with that gun and why he was so agitated before,” Fania said.

They haven’t determined where he got the gun and don’t know what led him to the church.

“It’s totally random, unfortunate circumstances that he ended up in that parking lot on that Sunday,” Fania said.

Parker originally was to serve a prison sentence on his Oklahoma convictions through 2021. But the sentence was suspended in November after he completed education and substance abuse programs, said Jerry Massie, a spokesman for the Oklahoma Department of Corrections.

Massie said Parker served time from December 2009 to November. Oklahoma closed Parker’s case in December.

Massie said the corrections department started making arrangements for Parker to be supervised when he transferred to Colorado but that an Oklahoma court ultimately decided not to place him under supervision.

Parker also served about three years in the Colorado prison system for possessing a controlled substance in Arapahoe County. He was discharged in November 2008, said Colorado Department of Corrections spokeswoman Katherine Sanguinetti.

According to Colorado court records, Parker most recently pleaded guilty on April 13 to driving with a suspended license _ a case that stemmed from a January 2009 citation for failing to stop at a stop sign. He was due to be sentenced in August.

Attorney Tony Coleman, who represented Parker in his Oklahoma case, said the Colorado incident sounds vaguely familiar to what his client did in Oklahoma _ a senseless act where Parker seems to have lost it.

In February 2009, Parker told Coleman, that he smoked marijuana, not knowing it was laced with PCP. Parker was put in jail for the night after a car accident but was released the next morning. No charges were filed.

Still feeling the effects of the drug the next morning, it was as if Parker had temporarily lost his mind, Coleman said. Coleman said Parker met a stranger who tried to help ease the effects of the drug. But Parker became paranoid and fled on foot, forced his way inside a home before the residents fled, stripped naked, then jumped out of the window when the residents returned. He then fled and broke into a second home.

It was there that police arrested Parker. Coleman said the assault charges alleged Parker closed the door on an officer’s arm and struggled while he was being arrested.

Coleman said Parker showed promise when he was released from an Oklahoma prison in November.

Coleman said he found his client very “likable” and that Parker’s mother was very involved in getting him the help he needed in Oklahoma.

Parker, too, was adamant in getting help.

“`I just want to get back home to my mother and my grandmother,'” Coleman said Parker told him when trying to determine what kind of crime he faced. “This is going to devastate them.”

Coleman said he spoke to Parker on the phone in January, and that he seemed to be on the right track. He said Parker told him that things were “finally looking up for me.”

___

Associated Press writer Rema Rahman contributed to this report from Denver.

(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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Suspect in Colo church shooting had been in prison