MCALESTER, Okla. (McAlester News-Capital) - Law enforcement officers continue to investigate the fatal shooting of an advocate for transgender rights who was killed working as a taxi driver in McAlester New Year's Day.
McAlester police said they found Dustin Parker, 25, fatally shot in the driver’s seat of a taxi with several bullet holes in it around 6:30 a.m. Wednesday in the 200 block of West Delaware Avenue.
McAlester Police Sgt. Preston Rodgers said a person of interest was detained and released Wednesday evening and investigators continued following leads Thursday.
When asked about evidence and possible footage from a camera system inside the taxi, Rodgers said investigators were still reviewing the evidence from the taxi.
“That’s still being looked into at this time,” Rodgers said.
Rodgers said investigators were out Thursday morning conducting interviews and following up on leads.
“We got a couple of investigators out this morning that are talking to some people,” Rodgers said. “We’re trying to talk to some people this morning and track down a few more leads and whatever information we get with phone calls coming in.”
Rover Taxi owner Brian West said Parker is survived by a wife and four children.
“Rover Taxi is devastated at the loss of a member of our Rover family,” West said. “Dustin was a steadfast friend, an amazing husband and father, and generous to a fault. He loved fiercely, worked tirelessly, and took on life with so much hope and enthusiasm that his presence brightened all of our lives. His bright, young life was taken far too early. Please keep his loved ones in your thoughts as we all try to pull together to get through these difficult times. Dustin will be missed, but never forgotten.”
The taxi company had partnered with local law firm Edwards and Patterson to provide free rides home on New Year’s Eve.
An online fundraiser West created with a goal of raising $50,000 to support Parker's family had raised more than $29,000 by Thursday afternoon.
West is also offering a $5,000 reward for information that leads to an arrest and conviction in the matter.
Parker, who was a transgender man, was a founding member of the McAlester Chapter of Oklahomans for Equality: Southeastern Equality, according to a social media post from the organization.
“Dustin is one our founding SeEQ members and was a loving soul, wonderful husband, father and friend. Please send your energies to his family and our community as we grapple with this tragedy,” SeEQ said in statement posted to social media.
When asked if there was any evidence suggesting Parker was targeted for being transgender, Rodgers said investigators were not aware of any at this time.
McAlester Mayor John Browne released a statement on social media stating police will make a swift effort in solving the “horrible crime.”
“Our hearts go out to the family and friends of Dustin Parker. Rest assured that law enforcement will put all their efforts into finding his killer and bring him/her swiftly to justice. McAlester lost a supremely nice person who had such a positive outlook in his life. He loved his job especially that it allowed him to help people. His passing is a loss for our community. I urge anyone who may have any information about this horrible crime, even if that information seems minor, to contact MPD.”
Along with West’s online fundraiser, members of the community have also stepped up to hold fundraisers for Parker’s family.
A candlelight vigil will be held 6:30 p.m. Friday at Fat Mary’s, 1561 W. Brewer Rd. in McAlester. After the vigil, the venue will host a benefit show featuring Bunny LaMarr, Matthew Heath-Fitzgerald, Kelly Powers, Ginger Styles, and Gabrielle DeShane. There will be no cover charge with all proceeds going to Parker’s family. The vigil is open to all ages with the benefit show open to those 21 and older with valid identification. Fat Mary's made a secondary post to remind anyone coming to the vigil Friday that the vigil will be in a field and the ground is uneven and likely to be damp and attendees should wear appropriate footwear.
The McAlester Domino’s Pizza location also announced on social media the restaurant will have a fundraiser for Parker’s family Sunday, Jan. 5 where $5 from every order of “Dustin’s Special” will be donated to the family.
A meal train was also created online where people can volunteer to prepare meals for Parker’s family. As of Thursday afternoon, only two spots were left open.
Anyone with information on the fatal shooting is asked to contact the McAlester Police Department at 918-423-1212 or the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation by calling the agency’s tipline at 1-800-522-801 or by emailing email@example.com