UPDATE: Truck owner who blasted alleged thief with bird shot describes tense confrontation

Suspect Cortez Baker has record of felonies, police say

tchitwood@ledger-enquirer.comApril 11, 2013 

A guy trying to steal a pickup truck wound up in a contest of point and duck Thursday as he aimed a pistol at the truck owner who pointed a shotgun back at him and eventually fired a blast of bird shot that persuaded the thief to give up the game and run.

That’s how police and the truck owner described the confrontation that followed construction workers chasing the suspect from Columbus’ Brown Avenue bridge replacement project at Cusseta Road to the street outside 1519 Coffee Court, where a struggle ensued.

There truck owner Frank Bahin Jr. and suspect Cortez Matthew Baker each took a weapon from Bahin’s 2005 Ford F-350 pickup and started aiming for each other, before Bahin’s bird shot sent Baker running into a residential area, police said.

Officers caught up with him behind 1630 Crest Drive, where Baker lay on the ground pretending to be seriously wounded, though he had only superficial punctures from the shotgun pellets, investigators said.

During his preliminary hearing Friday in Columbus Recorder’s Court, Baker faced two counts of aggravated assault and one count each of using a firearm to commit a crime, motor vehicle theft, theft of the gun, and being a convicted felon with a firearm. Judge Mary Buckner sent the case to Superior Court, giving Baker bonds totaling $42,500.

Detective Joel McNeal testified that Bahin and coworker Dale Adams saw Baker leaving the construction site in Bahin’s pickup, so they followed in Adams’ truck, calling 911 on a cell phone as they took up the chase.

They briefly lost track of the truck, but then were surprised then to see it coming toward them before the driver abruptly turned left and pulled over on Coffee Court, apparently to sift through Bahin’s possessions.

Bahin gave reporters more specific details of the encounter after Friday’s hearing, saying Baker never saw him and Adams coming up behind him. Bahin said he snatched open the driver’s side door and tried to pull Baker out. Baker got Bahin’s .9-mm pistol, which had one round in its chamber and another in the magazine, and pointed it at Bahin and Adams, Bahin said.

As Bahin and Adams ducked away, Baker got out on the passenger side and stood his ground, pointing the pistol back at them through the truck cab, Bahin said. So Bahin eased open the extended truck cab’s rear, driver’s side door, pulled out a shotgun, and pointed it through the cab at Baker, he said.

Then Baker ducked away, but rather than disengage, he ran low around the front of the truck, came up on the driver’s side and again pointed the pistol at Bahin, who aimed the shotgun back and tried to fire, Bahin said.

The shotgun’s safety was on, said Bahin, who suspects the pistol’s safety was on, too, and Baker couldn’t get it switched off. They kept pointing and ducking until finally Bahin got the shotgun’s safety off and fired at Baker, who was hit in the back of the head with a spray of pellets, police said.

Baker turned, stumbled, got back to his feet and ran, fast, taking the pistol with him, Bahin said.

As he fled into the Crest Drive neighborhood, residents saw the armed man and told police where he went, McNeal said. When officers found Baker, he was lying down, pretending to be unconscious, with the pistol still on him, McNeal said.

Asked why Baker would try to steal a truck, McNeal said the vehicle was worth about $20,000, and the pistol was worth around $500.

McNeal told the judge that Baker, 52, has had five felony convictions since 1996, the most recent a theft by receiving stolen property charge for which he was convicted April 4, 2011.

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