Gunfire empties Turlock park

TURLOCK -- A man who reportedly shot his estranged girlfriend forced a five-hour standoff with police Saturday at Donnelly Park before officers negotiated his surrender.

Police evacuated hundreds of people as they negotiated with the man. No injuries other than the shooting victim's were reported.

The Turlock police Special Weapons and Tactics team took James Haberkam Sr., 47, of Waterford into custody after he agreed to put the gun down and lie face down on the ground, police said.

The victim, whose injuries were not life-threatening, was taken to Emanuel Medical Center in Turlock, then was airlifted to a Modesto hospital, where she was treated Saturday evening for at least one gunshot wound to the upper torso, said Sgt. Steven Williams, a Turlock police spokesman.

The standoff started about 10:25 a.m. when a witness at the park heard the sound of at least one gunshot, Williams said. The witness called 911, saying a man was holding a gun and standing over a woman on the ground.

Turlock police and officers from California State University, Stanislaus, soon arrived and were able to convince Haberkam to move away from the victim, Williams said. When he did, officers dragged her to safety.

Haberkam remained near the restrooms on the west side of the pond at the north end of the park near Rochelle Avenue and Pedras Road.

Cindy Rase, 40, was driving from her nearby home with her son and husband when she saw more officers swarm the area. She parked about a block away and walked toward the park to get a closer look.

Rase said she saw Haberkam standing next to a tree with the gun behind his back.

"He was just standing there," she said. "He was just shaking his head, and he wouldn't put the gun down."

Rase said she saw the victim pulled near some water fountains, where officers examined her injuries. Police did not release the name of the victim.

Anita Evangelista, 38, of Turlock said she and members of her family were putting up birthday party decorations near a picnic table on the east side of the pond when they heard the gunshot.

Evangelista said they saw officers pull out their guns, approach Haberkam and order him to put his gun down.

Officers drew their guns, but kept their distance in hopes of resolving the situation without further gunfire, police said.

Before Evangelista could figure out what was going on, other officers were rushing toward them and others in the park.

"They told us to leave," Evangelista said. "They didn't let us take any of our stuff. Just get out of the park."

Police got more than 200 people out of the park, many of them setting up for birthday parties or picnics, according to Williams, the Turlock police spokesman. No homes were evacuated.

With help from the California Highway Patrol and the Stanislaus County Sheriff's Department, Turlock police sur- rounded the park and closed nearby streets. Ceres and Livingston police also assisted.

Williams said hostage negotiators provided a phone for Haberkam and talked to him for about two hours. At the same time, the SWAT team moved into place behind Haberkam near the restrooms.

About 3:20 p.m., Haberkam surrendered, Williams said.

Saturday night, Williams said Haberkam was being questioned at the Turlock Police Department and that formal charges would be determined after his interview.

The park was reopened shortly after the surrender, except near the crime scene area by the restrooms.

It was too late for the children of Aspira Foster and Family Services. The foster care agency canceled its party for 75 children that was to start at 11 a.m., said Rebecca Crawford, an agency employee.

Like others at the park, Crawford and the few who had already arrived for the party waited a few blocks away for the outcome.

When officers allowed them to return, they packed food, soda cases and other picnic items into their vehicles as a deflated air fun house for the children sat on the grass unused.

"Fortunately, everyone hadn't arrived yet," Crawford said. "We'll just have to reschedule."

Bee staff writer Rosalio Ahumada can be reached at rahumada@modbee.com or 578-2394.