After police shooting, each side can't reckon with the other [photos]

A framed photo of Diana Parkinson and her husband Mark is displayed at her home on Wednesday, March 7, 2018, in Rossville, Ga. Mark was shot through the window and killed by an unseen Walker County Sheriff's deputy on the night of Jan. 1 after he walked into his kitchen with a handgun in response to his barking dogs, his wife says.

ROSSVILLE, Ga. - "New Year's Day," Walker County Deputy John Chandler thought. "I'm going to get killed New Year's Day."

Chandler crouched below a window at 147 Meadowview Drive, a wooded property up the hill from Rossville Middle School. Next to him, at the house's side door, Sgt. Tim Perkins shouted, "Sheriff's office!"

It was 3:03 a.m. About 10 minutes earlier, a woman in Alabama called 911 and claimed her daughter-in-law was inside the house, threatening to shoot her children and herself.

When he arrived, Chandler shined a flashlight through the window. He saw a man in a white T-shirt and blue plaid boxers holding a pistol, and the barrel pointed toward Perkins.

"Gun!" Chandler shouted.

He ducked to his right, behind the wall. Time slowed. He rose, peeked through the window again, saw the man again, saw the gun again. The man faced straight ahead. The barrel faced straight ahead. A bullet would come for him, Chandler thought. He snapped the trigger three times.

"Until I didn't see him," Chandler told a detective on Jan. 10, during an internal affairs interview nine days after the shooting.

The man on the other side, Mark Parkinson, died of a gunshot wound to the chest.

There was no real threat, officers later learned. Parkinson's daughter, the woman supposedly hell-bent on killing her sons, slept upstairs. The children did, too. She was in the midst of a divorce and a custody battle. Officers later arrested her mother-in-law, Dorothy Gass, on a charge of filing a false report.

But a story's subtle details don't emerge in the middle of the night.

Inside the home that night, Mark Parkinson awoke to the sounds of his dachshund and Labrador barking. He grabbed his pistol from his nightstand and slipped out of bed. His wife, Diana Parkinson, worried their son-in-law was outside, prowling. Their daughter had accused him of abuse.

The stage was set for a showdown. Two men in the middle of the night, unsure what waited for them. Both gripped their guns. People on each side of the window didn't understand the other. They still don't.

Diana Parkinson said her husband flicked on the kitchen light and bullets cut through glass. How much time passed in all?

"Seconds," Perkins said during his internal affairs interview, according to a transcript provided to the Times Free Press by Diana Parkinson's attorney.

The transcript offers Chandler's point of view of the incident for the first time. It also reveals the chasms between the officers and the public in a stressful, confusing standoff.

After the shooting, as Mark Parkinson's blood stained his wife's light green nightgown, Chandler told Perkins, "I started talking to God. I feel at peace."

During his internal affairs interview, he said a higher power showed him Mark Parkinson: "I know it was God, 'cause I wasn't really paying attention to the window until I seen some movement."

"I told John I was proud of him," Perkins said. "I said, 'You reacted like you were trained. You shot that son of a [expletive]. Sorry for the family, but you shot him. You went home that morning to your kids, your three kids, you know? I was able to go home to my wife.'"

After reading the transcript, Diana Parkinson felt insulted. The officers seemed callous, too concerned with their own safety to worry about the wreckage left behind.

"They had no thought to us," she said. "Their thought was taking care of themselves. And that's not what police officers are supposed to do. I have always trusted police. I have always thought of them as the people who take care of us. They didn't. They didn't give him a chance."

She was particularly upset by Chandler's invocation of religion: "What that man did was not an act of God. He was not protected by God then. He was protected by himself."

Both sides question the other's actions in those seconds.

Why did Parkinson point a gun in the dark, Chandler and Perkins later asked? He had to have seen the officers in the uniforms, they said. He had to have heard Perkins shout.

"He meant to do me harm," Chandler said.

Mark Parkinson couldn't have heard the officers over the dogs barking, his wife said. And he couldn't have seen them, either. You can't see out the kitchen at night. All he could see was his reflection in the window.

Why didn't the officers retreat, she wondered? Find cover? Call the landline?

Chandler said you don't retreat in that moment. You try to get away, you're vulnerable to the stranger's bullets. Perkins said you don't call the house. You call the house, the deranged killer shoots her children.

A case like this stays with an officer, Perkins said. He was in a shootout in 2003. For years, the scene appeared to him. He saw bullets whiz over his head. Asked if he was OK, Chandler said he had a method to deal with trauma, in private. He didn't explain.

The scene doesn't leave Diana Parkinson, either. And yet, she forgets her husband is gone. She still grabs Frosted Flakes, skim milk and JFG instant coffee at the grocery store. Mark Parkinson was the only one who liked those things, but a habit doesn't die after 44 years.

They were supposed to drive to their timeshare in Panama City, Fla., this spring. Instead, she brought a friend. She sat in the condo and cried. She hoped to shake the pain before she returns with her grandkids in July.

"They got their happy ending," she said of the officers. "We didn't."

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