SACRAMENTO (CBS13) — To this day, it remains one of the most baffling murders in Sacramento history.
On May 13, 1988, someone with a rifle took aim and fired for no apparent reason.
The birds sing loudly on a quiet morning nearly 27 years later along a nicely kept Midtown Sacramento street, just as they did outside an apartment building near 18th and D streets in 1988.
It was a Friday just before noon. Someone would walk up the stairs leading to a second-floor apartment and shatter all peaceful sounds.
Multiple shots were fired from a second-floor window. A sniper had gotten into position to do some serious damage.
“We knew pretty much instantly that something bad had happened down here,” said Chas Howard.
He worked two blocks away from the shooting. He can still see the chaos as Blue Diamond workers were moved out of the area and school children at nearby Washington Elementary School were rushed to a safe zone. Police surrounded the building where the shots were coming from.
Witnesses who saw the aftermath told CBS13 at the time they thought it might have been backfire, but no one reported seeing the shooter—just a shadowy figure in the window.
But everyone saw what he left behind.
A lone victim, 32-year-old Stephen McDonald, took a fatal bullet to the chest. He had been on the job at Blue Diamond just six weeks. He was with his fellow workers taking part in an employee-sponsored health walk outside the factory. He and his co-workers were a clear shot away from the shooter.
McDonald was the only person hit, and investigators believe it was a random shooting.
Nearly three decades later, the case hasn’t been solved. Even though police responded within minutes, the shooter was nowhere to be found.
But whoever it was took time to lock the window screen and the door to the apartment building. The building that was vacant at the time, leading to one theory. Neighbors say it had become a homeless hangout and a homeless man in the area was being looked at, but nothing came out of that investigation.
Sacramento Police still believe the murder of Stephen McDonald will one day be solved.
“With any cold case of this nature, someone has talked,” said Sacramento Police officer Doug Morse. “Someone has said something to a relative, a friend, so it’s just a matter of kind of leaning on those individuals who might have that piece of information.”
Howard knows one thing. He’ll never forget the day the Sacramento Sniper shattered the peaceful sounds and ended the life of someone they didn’t even know.
Because it’s an open investigation, the coroner’s report that would have included information on the next of kin could not be released. CBS13 did speak with one of Stephen McDonald’s former co-workers who didn’t want to go on camera. He simply said what so many others are wondering—who could have done this and why?
If you remember anything about the murder of Stephen McDonald, contact the Sacramento Police Department.