Turlock park shooting charge filed

TURLOCK -- An attempted murder charge was filed Monday against the Waterford man believed responsible for the Donnelly Park shooting.

James Haberkam Sr., 47, is suspected of shooting his ex-girlfriend after a Saturday morning fight in the park. He surrendered after a five-hour standoff with police, laying his handgun on the ground and crawling toward heavily armed officers.

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

Police wouldn't issue the victim's name or any new details on Monday, citing a pending investigation.

Haberkam's 23-year-old son, who asked not to be identified by name, said his father planned to kill himself in front of his ex.

"His intention was to kill himself. When he pulled the gun, he accidentally shot her," his son said.

Haberkam has a raft of mental and physical problems, the son said, from bipolar disorder, to two recent heart attacks and a new cancer diagnosis.

"He had lots of depression, and she messed with his head and broke his heart," the son said.

During the negotiation with police, Haberkam "did make suicidal comments" and "pointed the gun in the direction of his chest," Williams said.

One of Haberkam's demands was to speak with his son face-to-face. After the arrest, he saw him for two or three minutes before police took him away, the son said.

"He told me he was sorry and he tried to kill himself," the son said. "He didn't try to kill her. All the bullet did was graze her. She was only in the hospital a couple of hours."

Stephen Salyer Jr., 26, of Turlock was meeting his pastor at Donnelly Park when he heard two people fighting. He walked over a bump in the grass and saw Haberkam yelling at a woman 50 yards away.

"He looked like he was on something, his movements. He was spun out," Salyer said.

Salyer and his pastor walked slowly toward the fight, planning to break it up if it got physical. He heard the f-word, the b-word and threats. The woman turned, Salyer said, when they heard the crack of a gunshot.

"She buckled and fell straight to the ground," he said. "He was standing over her body pointing the gun at her and yelling all types of crazy stuff."

Salyer and the pastor rushed to the playground and told everyone to run. Except for a young mother and child who didn't speak English, dozens of parents and kids ran toward the south end of the park, Salyer said. That's when the police showed up.

Officers from Turlock, California State University, Stanislaus, the California Highway Patrol, Stanislaus County Sheriff's Department, and the Ceres and Livingston police departments arrived, and close to 300 people were cleared from Donnelly Park and surrounding streets.

Haberkam backed away from the victim as police pulled shotguns and called for him to drop the weapon, Salyer said. Two female police officers got to the wounded woman and carried her to safety behind a patrol car.

Nearly five hours later, Haberkam put down his weapon.

"It was pretty scary seeing this lady just lying there, not moving, with blood all soaked through her shirt," Salyer said.

Salyer doesn't think it was an accident: "He had the gun pointed right at her and pulled the trigger."

Bee staff writer Michael R. Shea can be reached at mshea@modbee.com or 578-2391.