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Donnelly Park shooter sentenced to 32 years to life in prison
During the five hour stand-off with police in September 2007 at Donnelly Park, James Haberkam, Sr. put a gun to his chin and threatened suicide. - photo by Journal file photo

The Waterford man who shot his estranged girlfriend in Turlock’s Donnelly Park and sparked a five-hour standoff with law enforcement in 2007, was sentenced Thursday to prison.

James Oliver Haberkam, Sr., 49, was convicted by a jury on Feb. 16, of premeditated, attempted murder and discharging a firearm causing great bodily injury.

On Thursday Stanislaus County Superior Court Judge Timothy Salter sentenced Haberkam to 32 years to life in prison, the Stanislaus County District Attorney’s Office reported.

The case against Haberkam arose out of events that transpired on Sept. 29, 2007.The prosecution presented evidence during the trial that Haberkam was despondent over the end of a 10-year relationship with his girlfriend and that she had recently started seeing someone new.Haberkam asked the woman if she would meet him at the park to discuss bills related to the apartment they had shared. When the woman arrived Haberkam grabbed her and showed her a 380 semi-automatic handgun. He threatened to kill her and her new boyfriend before turning the gun on himself, according to the prosecution.The woman was able to break free, but as she tried to run to safety, Haberkam aimed the gun at her and shot her once in the back.The shooting took place around 10:30 a.m. and the park was full of individuals and families, including dozens of children there for a birthday party. As people ran for cover the Turlock and California State University, Stanislaus police departments arrived and surrounded the park. Officers approached Haberkam at gunpoint and found him standing over the victim with his gun aimed down at her.

Officers were able to get the woman to safety and she was transported to an area hospital.

A hostage negotiations team began a long conversation with Haberkam, who expressed moments of despondency throughout the negotiation, indicating he wanted “suicide by cop.”During the five-hour standoff Haberkam would alternate between raising the gun to his chest or chin and make suicidal threats and at other times he would scoop the puppy up and nuzzle it against his face.Ultimately, the hostage negotiations team was able to convince Haberkam to put down the gun and surrender.

The case was prosecuted by the late Nate Baker, who passed away in August. Deputy District Attorney Carolyn Matzger represented the People at the sentencing hearing.

To contact Sabra Stafford, e-mail or call 634-9141 ext. 2002.