A Fort Riley soldier accused of murder took the stand in Riley County District Court Thursday, acknowledging he fired his M4 rifle toward a clubhouse but saying he did not know that one of the bullets killed Frederick Beverly, a 21-year-old National Guardsman, in the process.
Daniel Parker, 27, faces charges of first-degree murder and criminal discharge of a firearm in an occupied dwelling.
Parker told jurors in the courtroom of Judge David Stutzman that he and his wife had gone to Last Chance bar in Aggieville on New Year’s Eve 2011, and admitted having been involved in an altercation with an armed forces motorcycle club called Assassin Street Rydaz. The Rydaz had a clubhouse off of Fort Riley Boulevard at 1827 Fair Lane where they planned to have a New Year’s Eve after-party.
Parker testified that he didn’t remember the context of the altercation, one reason being that he had been drinking. He said he recalled being angry about it during his ride home with his wife to their Junction City apartment.
Under direct examination from his attorney Ron Evans, Parker said he drove from Junction City to Manhattan around 4 a.m. after talking with friends on the phone about the altercation. He said he moved a semi-automatic rifle from the trunk of his Chevy Impala, where he normally kept it, to the passenger’s seat.
He said that when he arrived at the Assassin Street Rydaz clubhouse, an old converted car wash, he drove by it twice to make sure no one was outside. He said he never saw Beverly at an entrance gate to the after-party outside of the clubhouse.
Under cross-examination from prosecuting attorney Barry Disney, Parker said he fired the weapon in order to send a message to the club not to mess with him, but he denied trying to hurt anybody. Of the 20-27 bullets he said he fired, one is theorized to have ricocheted off a metal fence, hitting Beverly between the eyebrows. Dr. Altaf Hossain, a physician who performed Beverly’s autopsy, earlier testified that the victim wasn’t shot directly.
Parker said after he opened fire, he drove off and went home, not remembering that he stopped at a gas station and bought pizza and a cigar, though he acknowledged that a receipt indicated he had.
One reason Parker said he didn’t remember some of the details that night or his decision to go to Manhattan was because he had Post Traumatic Stress Disorder following his second deployment to Iraq for the U.S. Army.
“I found myself more distant from sanity,” he said. Parker said after seeing people die in Iraq, he had a mental breakdown and when he came home, he didn’t know how to connect with people and started heavily drinking.
Parker said he sought help reluctantly for fear of a discharge from the Army and what others would think of him. Parker said he was scheduled for a substance abuse appointment in late January following the shooting, but was arrested first.
David Hough, a clinical psychologist and witness for the defense, said Parker had PTSD and also Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, which could have had an effect on his judgment. Hough assessed Parker while he was detained by police following the crime.
Hough said some people with PTSD feel like they still are in combat mode, perceiving threats and danger where there aren’t any in a state of hyper-arousal. He said the combat behavior isn’t appropriate in civilian life.
“They can’t turn the war off,” he said.
Hough also said Parker had a violent encounter in his home state of Florida, where he was beaten by a gang of teenagers and hit in the head.
Parker said he didn’t know what exactly drove him to do what he did and acknowledged the loss in the courtroom where friends and family of Beverly’s were present.
“I feel for the family,” he said. “I think, what if it would have been my brother? I’m sorry this happened.”
The jury was expected to deliberate Thursday afternoon.