September 17, 2004

Officer Mourned in Brooklyn
Was Precinct's 'Heart and Soul'

Staff Reporter of the Sun

Detective Robert Parker sang opera while lifting weights, raised his girlfriend's daughter as his own, bought dinner for the suspects he arrested, and was known as "the black James Bond" for his dead-ringer imitations of movie stars.

But a week ago today, before he ever laid eyes on his newborn goddaughter, Parker was gunned down at East Flatbush with his partner, Detective Patrick Rafferty.

"He didn't get a chance to see the baby," said Ronnelle Jackson, sister to Parker's longtime girlfriend, Tawanna Jackson. She said the baby is the granddaughter of Parker's ex-wife, Loretta Davis, and lives in North Carolina.

Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly, Mayor Bloomberg, Governor Pataki, and hundreds of police officers, family members, and friends attended Parker's wake at Grace Funeral Chapels at East New York yesterday, forming a line of blue uniforms that stretched around the building.

Many of the officers had also attended Rafferty's funeral in East Islip on Wednesday, which attracted a crowd estimated at 15,000. Parker's funeral is to be held in Brooklyn today.

Tahisha Jackson, 20, the daughter of Parker's girlfriend, said she first learned of the September 10 killings on the television news. The slain detectives were not immediately identified and Ms. Jackson called Parker's cell phone, praying he would pick up.

"My father always answered my phone calls," said Ms. Jackson, who was raised by Parker from the age of 3. "When he didn't answer that one call, I knew what was going down."

Ms. Jackson had just seen Parker the previous night. "Every time I told him I loved him, he said he loved me more, and that was the last thing he said to me Thursday," said Ms. Jackson.

Ms. Jackson said her mother, who had been with Parker for 17 years, was "not doing so well. She lost her rock and her best friend."

Detectives who worked with Parker said he was an essential member of the 67th Precinct, and spent hours speaking with troubled teenagers one-on one, often bringing their mothers into the stationhouse in the attempt to straighten them out.

"Bobby was the heart and soul of the 67 squad," said Detective Terry Leto. "I don't know how the squad is going to go on without him."

Detective Joseph Calabrese said that Parker never hit suspects, using his bulk and martial arts skills to overpower them without causing harm.

Mr. Calabrese said Parker would treat his suspects "nice," even buying them fast food dinners and wishing them a "blessed day" after taking them to jail. Parker made about 500 arrests during his 22 years on the force, and was sometimes tapped by the writers of "NYPD Blue" for story ideas, said Mr. Calabrese.

"If you wanted to go out and get somebody, those were the two to take with you," said Mr. Calabrese, referring to Parker and Rafferty.

Several bartenders from Parker's preferred watering hole, Mooney's Pub on Flatbush Avenue, turned out to pay their respects.

"He had a 'Magnum PI' ring," said bartender Scot Parish, who described Parker's ring as gold with a black face, just like Tom Selleck used to wear. "When I first met him eight or nine years ago, it was the first thing I noticed. He was the only guy who could beat me in 'Magnum PI' trivia."

Parker and Rafferty were posthumously promoted to detective first grade and were credited with helping to apprehend the suspect accused of fatally shooting them.

After they were mortally wounded, Parker called 911 and identified the suspect, while Rafferty shot the suspect in the legs.

Marlon Legere, 28, was arraigned for their murders at Brooklyn Criminal Court on Monday.

"People want to know why police officers stop cars with their hands on their guns? That's why," said an anonymous police officer as she left the funeral home, weeping. "[Parker] was a beautiful person. It's a shame."

Parker's funeral is set for 10 a.m. today at Christian Cultural Center, 120-20 Flatlands Ave., Brooklyn.