Man shot by police a 'gentle giant,' according to friends, family

Man shot by police a 'gentle giant,' according to friends, family »Play Video
Joshua Baker's sister, Rhiannon Bassett, sent KATU News this photo of her brother, calling him a "gentle giant."

PORTLAND, Ore. – Family and friends say the man shot by Portland police over the weekend has never been violent before, but now he's the suspect in an attempted murder.

Officers responded to the Hathaway Apartments on Southeast 134th early Saturday morning after 38-year-old Vadim V. Kobenko was shot there. Police chased the suspect, 27-year-old Joshua Stephen Baker, for four miles until he crashed. That's when an officer opened fire.

Baker's sister, Rhiannon Bassett, and roommate, Amber Schmidt, are upset and not excusing his actions but want people to know the man they know.

Bassett sent KATU News pictures of her brother, describing him as a "gentle giant."

She admitted he must need mental help and said he's gone downhill since they learned last year their biological mother was convicted of murdering an officer in Arizona.

She heard from neighbors at the Hathaway Apartments that Baker was looking for his girlfriend when he had the gun Saturday and that he must have accidentally shot the other man.

She and Schmidt said they feel for that family but are still trying to wrap their heads around what happened.

"Just flabbergasted. Absolutely shocked. It's a whirlwind of emotions," said Bassett by phone Monday. "It's fear for the guy fighting for his life. It's fear for my brother."

She said Baker was going for his girlfriend, Jesse, with a gun but accidently shot Kobenko.

"He freaked out, he didn't know what to do," Bassett said. "I really don't think he meant to shoot that guy. I don't know if he meant to kill Jesse. I just, I don't want to believe he's capable of that."

"He's a completely different person than all that anger and rage," said Schmidt. "I've known him for a long time. I just could never imagine him doing something like this."

They said they don't know how to feel toward police right now. They don't know what Baker did in the moments before an officer fired.

Police said Baker refused to comply with officer commands and witnesses told KATU News he was holding a rifle.

Baker suffered non-life-threatening injuries and is now being held at the Multnomah County Jail, facing charges of first-degree assault with a firearm, attempted murder with a firearm and fourth-degree domestic violence assault, according to police.

Portland police identified the officers involved in the shooting as Erik Strohmeyer, a 12-year veteran, and Garry Britt, a four-year veteran. Both are on paid leave during the investigation, which is standard procedure.

Kobenko is in critical condition at a local hospital, police said.

On Monday evening, his daughter and brother told KATU News he should live, and he woke up and told them he was trying to protect a woman. He said he was shot in the chest when he refused to leave.