SANTA FE — Six eyewitnesses testified Tuesday about the bloody episode of a gunman chasing and shooting his former girlfriend until her neighbors tackled, beat and restrained him until police arrived.
William Ray Parker, 46, of Hitchcock pleaded guilty to murder in the Sept. 15, 2012, slaying of Angela Renee Lopez, 42, at her home in the 4200 block of Avenue Q1⁄2 in Santa Fe.
The shooting unfolded within sight of at least seven people, including Lopez’s daughter, who was 12 years old.
During the first day of testimony in Parker’s punishment hearing, prosecutors Xochitl Vandiver-Gaskin and Candice Freeman said they didn’t intend to call the girl as a witness before the jury of seven men and five women.
Dustyn Hertenberger testified he was driving by that Saturday afternoon when he heard gunshots over his loud stereo. He looked to the front of Lopez’s duplex.
“There was a man in the grass and a lady screaming, running around the front pillar,” Hertenberger said. “There were two pillars in front of it. She was behind the one on the left, trying to dodge the shooting.”
Defending mother from gunman
Lopez’s daughter tried to defend her mother.
“The little girl started hitting on him,” Hertenberger said. “He shoved her to the ground and took off after (the mother), discharging the weapon two or three times.”
Lukas Dorsett was inside a house across the street when he heard gunshots. He went outside and saw Parker shooting the firearm.
“She was just trying to get away from him anyway she could,” Dorsett said.
As two other men ran to the scene, Dorsett saw Parker chase Lopez to a neighbor’s backyard. Cheryl Johnson was on her back porch but went inside when he heard the gunfire. She looked through her double doors and called police for help.
“I saw a man run directly behind her, point a gun at her and shoot her,” Johnson said. “It was horrible. It was a hysterical moment for me.”
Shot in the back
Dennis Hyatt, a volunteer fireman with no medical training, was near his barn when he saw Parker chasing Lopez with a gun in his hand.
“He shot her, and then she fell,” Hyatt said. “I thought he apparently shot her in the back. Then, after she fell, I hollered at him. He looked up at me, looked back down and had a gun pointing to her head. He dropped it a little further down and shot again.”
Lopez’s daughter ran to Hyatt, screaming for someone to do something. Hyatt kept his distance, not wanting the girl to follow him toward the gunman. Hyatt saw two other neighbors intervene.
Charles Orsak and Jon Walton were in their homes watching television when they heard gunshots and rushed to the scene. Orsak saw Lopez run from her home while screaming at the top of her lungs.
“Not seconds behind her was Mr. what’s-his-name,” Orsak said of the defendant.
Orsak cut through Johnson’s breezeway and looked into her backyard. He saw Parker standing over Lopez. Parker’s back was to Orsak.
Neighbor tackles shooter
“He was still holding a gun in his hand, shooting,” Orsak said. “That’s when I took off and tackled the man. Hit him from behind. His gun landed approximately 2 to 3 feet from us.”
Orsak pulled Parker’s arm behind his back.
“I commenced hitting him in the face as hard as I could until the police got there,” Orsak said. “He was trying to get away, but it didn’t work for him too well.”
Walton arrived and grabbed Parker’s other arm.
“When I saw Charlie tackle the guy, I jumped on top, trying to hold him down,” Walton said. “He kept struggling. I’d say ‘quit moving,’ and every time he moved, we’d hit him a couple of times.”
The men restrained Parker until Santa Fe police officer Matthew Rosenbrock handcuffed him.
‘I can’t breathe’
Orsak saw Lopez a few feet away.
“She was yelling there screaming, ‘Help me! Help me! Hold me!’” Orsak said. “Blood’s going everywhere. There’s numerous gunshot wounds in her body. I specifically remember one in her neck gushing blood.”
Walton and his aunt tried to help Lopez, who was asking about her daughter. They told her the girl was fine.
“‘Please don’t leave me,’” Walton said Lopez told them. “Then she said, ‘I can’t see. I can’t breathe.’”
Johnson recalled watching neighbors disarm Parker as Lopez struggled to survive.
“She was raising her right leg up and down, trying to move her arms, but they kept falling,” Johnson said.
Lopez’s daughter collapsed by the corner of Johnson’s house.
“She was crumpled up and put her little head down to her knees,” Johnson said.
While handcuffed, Parker yelled to Lopez, “‘I’m sorry! I love you!’” Walton said.
A medical helicopter flew Lopez to the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston, where she died.
Parker was treated for minor injuries and released from Mainland Medical Center in Texas City into police custody. His blood-alcohol level measured .25 percent, more than three times the legal limit to drive an automobile, Parker’s defense attorney, Jeremy DuCote, said.
Parker spent much of the first day of testimony in a highly emotional state, apparently crying while holding his face in his hands.
The courtroom was packed with Lopez’s family and other supporters. Most of them wore purple.
Prosecutors ask for life sentence
The jury will decide Parker’s punishment. Prosecutors asked the panel to sentence him to life in prison.
DuCote said his client had no previous criminal history, and that he bought the gun to commit suicide, not intending to kill Lopez.
DuCote asked the jury to consider whether Parker was a continuous danger to the community and whether he should be given the opportunity in some small way to make amends.
Testimony is expected to continue today in Judge Kerry Neves’ 10th District Court in Galveston.