‘Gentle giant’ peacemaker murdered Christmas evening

Read why so many of Robbie Pfeifer’s friends will be saying their final good-byes at a service this weekend to this manm slain by a stranger with a gun ‚Ķ

Friends say Robbie Pfeifer was a regular fixture here at the “Wetlands”, playing pool and listening to music, after he worked his evening shift at the Parkrose Shari’s Restaurant.

Story and photo by David F. Ashton
A disagreement between two women, late on Christmas night, turns into a scuffle at a landmark pub on outer SE Stark St., “Wetlands Public House”.

The physical altercation soon includes several individuals, police detectives say, and then — a 21-year-old man pulls a gun and shoots.

Police roll on-scene shortly after 1:30 a.m. and find 28-year-old Robert Carl Pfeifer, “Robbie” to all who speak of him, lying dead on the establishment’s floor.

Detectives interview 15 of the 40 or so people on hand to celebrate the end of Christmas Day at the Wetlands. After the questioning, Lai Ngoc Thach is taken away in handcuffs, charged with one count of Murder.

Sorrow felt throughout outer East Portland

Everyone with whom we spoke says Robbie Pfeifer was a big, loveable guy who tried to soothe and calm situations wherever he went. (Contributed photo)

Tears well up in the large, dark brown eyes of Candy Woods, a fellow employee at Shari’s Restaurant in Parkrose, as she starts to talk about Pfeifer.

The two were within a year of being the same age she said. They’d been classmates a decade ago at Parkrose High.

“Robbie was a loveable goofy guy. He’d do anything to help people who needed his help.”

Woods shows us a photo she’d recently taken of Pfeifer. “I just got the film processed today. I’m afraid it might have maple syrup on it,” she says with a faint smile. “It’s been passed around a lot here.”

She learned what happened to Pfeifer when she came to work the following day. “Everything just paused. I don’t know how to explain the feelings I felt. I said to myself, ‘No, I don’t think so. Not Robby.’ I called his home and ‚Ķ” her words trailed off.

A “gentle giant”, the 6′ 3″, 230-pound Pfeifer often stood tall, trying to calm tense situations, Woods tells us. “To be honest with you, he’d break up fights and get people to calm down even when we were in high school.”

A coworker adds, “Last year about this time, he got a black eye from trying to break up a fight.”

This simple sign on the door of the San Rafael Shari’s Restaurant in Parkrose marks the passing of a beloved coworker and employee.

Shari’s customer Frank Ryan tells us he’d been waited on by Robbie for quite some time. “He’d goof around and say things like, ‘Oh, you’re back again!’ He had a big, warm smile that made you feel like you were special.”

Employees talk at the end of the counter. The grief they express to one another shows on their faces. Heartfelt phrases like “They say only the good die young,” and “I can’t believe he won’t be walking through that door” hang in the air. His coworkers struggle to make sense out of a senseless act of violence.

His boss, talking to customer Ryan, says, “Robbie was a peacemaker. In this case, he was at the wrong place at the wrong time.”

Alleged killer held without bail

Homicide detectives say customers at the “Wetlands” pointed out 21-year-old Lai Ngoc Thach as the man who shot Pfeifer.

Police arrested Lai Ngoc Thach, who lives in outer East Portland, at 6:30 a.m. on December 26, and is held without bail at the Justice Center Jail on one count of murder. He was arraigned the following day.

Detectives believe there may have been up to 40 potential witnesses inside at the time of the shooting; however, many fled the scene prior to police arriving. Anyone with information to contribute is asked to call Detective Brian Grose at (503) 823-0757 or Detective Bryan Steed at (503) 823-0395.

¬© 2006 David F. Ashton ~ East PDX News

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