Rossville, Ga., widow awaits results of probe into husband's fatal shooting by deputy

Diana Parkinson poses for a portrait on Wednesday, March 7, 2018, in Rossville, Ga., seen from outside her home and framed by the broken window through which her husband, Mark, was shot and killed by a Walker County Sheriff's deputy on the night of Jan. 1. Mark walked into his kitchen with a handgun in response to his barking dogs when he was shot by an unseen deputy through the window, his wife says.

I disagree. I don't think [Mark] had enough time. But I wasn't out there. I was in here. ... I want the police to do their job, and I want to stay out of that. I want to give them their free rein. I want to see what they do.

Forty-three years of marriage, and all she needed was the sound of his voice.

"Something's going on," said Mark Parkinson, 65, of Rossville. "I'm going to go see."

It was around 3 a.m. on Jan. 1. But after her husband's proclamation, Diana Parkinson was awake, too. She watched him grab a handgun from the top of the nightstand, walk past the three barking dogs on the floor. She got out of bed and followed, about 10 feet behind.

It couldn't have been more than 30 seconds later. Diana, 65, had reached the living room couch when Mark flipped on the kitchen lights. He was wearing nothing but boxers and a white T-shirt. Seconds passed. Then, two shots broke through the window above the sink. A third cut through the wall, inches below.

One of the bullets hit its target. It sliced through the right side of Mark's chest, burrowed somewhere near his spine. Diana watched him fall on his back. She grabbed a phone and dropped near him. His eyes were closing. Blood leaked from the sides of his mouth. She yelled for her daughter, Amy, a nurse.

Amy tried CPR. She looked at her father's face. He appeared surprised.

"Complete hopelessness," she said. "I see it in the ER. It was just, 'What happened? Why am I laying on the floor?' He had no clue."

On the Parkinsons' porch, in a secluded part of town that overlooks Rossville Middle School, three members of the Walker County Sheriff's Office waited. They had responded to a 911 call about 10 minutes earlier. A woman claimed she had gotten a message from Amy: She was going to kill her children, then herself.

The caller turned out to be Dorothy Gass, the mother of Amy's estranged husband. The two are in the middle of divorce proceedings. The custody of a child is in dispute.

Amy denies calling Gass with those threats. The Georgia Bureau of Investigation has charged Gass with falsely reporting a crime, a misdemeanor. The agency's inquiry is still open. One particular issue: Just before Gass called 911, logs show, she was on the phone with her son (Amy's estranged husband) for 16 minutes.

The sheriff's office, meanwhile, ran an internal investigation into that night. On Jan. 26, the department's command staff cleared the shooter, Deputy John Chandler. They said he acted "properly and within Sheriff's Office policy."

Here is Chandler's version of events, according to an interview summary provided to the Times Free Press by Diana Parkinson's attorney: He arrived at the house with two other members of the department. Sgt. Tim Perkins rang the doorbell, and Chandler saw someone moving in the house.

He shined a flashlight inside, saw a man with a gun. The man appeared to be pointing the gun at Perkins. Chandler moved away and yelled, "Gun." He looked back, saw the man now pointing the gun at him. He and Perkins shouted, "sheriff's office." The man inside "never changed," according to the interview summary. Chandler then fired shots.

An interview summary with Perkins does not provide an identical account. While he announced "sheriff's office," he said he did so while knocking on the door. He did not say he saw a man with a gun inside; he did not shout out "sheriff's office" in response to an armed man.

Two months later, Diana stood in that same kitchen Wednesday. The window is still cracked. A divot the size of a fingertip sits in the wood floor, where a bullet landed. From where Mark stood, at night, you can't see a person standing outside.

After the shooting, she said, an officer interviewed her at the Rossville police station for about an hour. Nobody told her who shot her husband until they were finished. Diana yelled.

When asked Wednesday about the sheriff's office's conclusion, that Chandler followed policy, Diana said, "I disagree. I don't think [Mark] had enough time. But I wasn't out there. I was in here. ... I want the police to do their job, and I want to stay out of that. I want to give them their free rein. I want to see what they do."

Since the shooting, Diana has put up blinds near the kitchen table and in the dining room. In the living room, her friend hung tan, black-out curtains. Her 7-year-old grandson, who lives with her, will not enter the room at night if the windows aren't covered.

"He is afraid," Diana said, "that the police are going to come back."

Contact staff writer Tyler Jett at 423-757-6476 or tjett@timesfreepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @LetsJett.