CONCORD, N.C. — Concord Police Officers Kaleb Robinson and Kyle Baker stood side by side with fallen Officer Jason Shuping the night he was shot and killed by a suspected carjacker.
Now, they’re opening up to Channel 9 about that night, the ups and downs they’ve faced since, why they decided to stay on the job when so many would have walked away, and how Shuping is still influencing their lives today.
Reliving the night of Dec. 16, 2020 is tough for both Robinson and Baker. It’s been five months since, but the officers said time doesn’t dull the vivid and painful memories of losing their friend, Shuping.
“I just get to that point because he didn’t deserve that,” Baker said.
They said as patrol officers, the chance of a call going sideways is always in the back of their mind, but they said none of them could have foreseen the events of that night unfolding the way they did.
“What if this has happened? How would I react? We’ve got a little bit of a different outlook now on certain things -- obviously, both of us do,” Baker said.
Last year, the pair worked the night shift near Concord Mills. That’s where they were in the early morning of Dec. 16, along with their good friend Shuping, when a call came out for a single-car accident.
“It was dispatched to me,” Baker recalled. “I just responded like normal.”
Robinson arrived right behind him. They found the car, but there was no one inside. While the two checked nearby businesses, a woman told them that a man had asked her for a ride near the Sonic on Gateway Boulevard. Robinson and Shuping went to find the man, but they had no idea he was a suspected carjacker and had a gun.
“So, he was actually on foot at the time, and we were just going to talk to him to see if we can figure out what happened, and we never made it to that point,” Robinson remembered. “He made our decisions for us.”
The suspect opened fire on the two officers. Robinson said while parts of his memory are completely gone, others are quite vivid.
(Watch Below: Widow of Concord Police Officer Jason Shuping pays it forward in honor of her husband)
“I was injured within the first couple of seconds of everything going down, so it’s really warped, but me and Jason were both shot within the first couple seconds, and then it unfolded really quickly,” Robinson said.
Baker had been back to the car accident scene but said he heard gunshots ringing out and got to Robinson and Shuping as fast as he could. What he saw next is tough for Baker to recall and describe.
Shuping had been shot and had not survived. Robinson was also shot, though alive and even giving directions to Baker and other officers because the armed suspect was still out there.
“We saw the broken window of the SUV, and then we saw him sitting inside,” Baker said. “We started making our commands for him to show us his hands, and then that’s when he pulled the gun on us.”
This time, the gunfire lasted just a few seconds. The suspect was shot and killed. What felt like an eternity had only lasted about two minutes.
“It’s almost like a, like a dream, like a bad dream,” Robinson said. “Like, you know what happened. And you know you were there. But it’s almost like it didn’t happen to you. It’s a very, very strange feeling.”
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Robinson said paramedics arrived within seconds and quickly scooped him into an ambulance. He was taken to the hospital where doctors found he’d been shot in the hip, though he said he didn’t even realize he’d been hit until he was told.
Robinson said he believes his duty belt acted as a tourniquet, stopping blood from flowing until he could get to professional help. He said he didn’t even have to have stitches and was up walking the next day. He and Baker both said it’s incredible they weren’t hurt worse, but they know who to thank for that.
“The investigation has showed that when Jason ran up, he was, he was literally protecting Kaleb,” Baker said.
“Yeah, Jason for sure saved my life, I have no doubt about it,” Robinson said.
The investigation also showed the officers acted with textbook precision that night -- with no violations.
Both officers took close to two months off work and used that time to focus on recovery -- both physical and emotional.
“You know, what happened has changed us. It changed the rest of our brothers and sisters, and each have their own ways [of getting through it],” Baker said.
One way they’re doing that is using their experience to help other officers understand that it’s OK to focus on -- and take care of -- their mental health.
(Watch Below: Concord police to honor fallen Officer Jason Shuping with Medal of Valor)
“I wanted to catch it early on,” Baker said. “I know PTSD is a real thing. I hear people talk about it all the time, so I decided to reach out from everyone’s advice, and I am seeing a professional. I definitely wanted to get to experience mostly so that I can help other officers in the future. You’ve got to know what your resources are, right? And I think this agency does a great job at letting everybody know, ‘Hey, these resources are here; they’re free. Take advantage of them.’ And that’s what we did.”
“It’s important for them to know it can happen,” Robinson said. “I mean, I was on the job. I was just out on my own for five months. Going through schooling, you know, there’s that possibility you’ll be involved, but you don’t think it’s going to happen to you nine months into the job. And I think they need to hear that it’s possible. I mean, you have to know what you’re doing. You have to, you have to be prepared for that.”
Both officers returned to work as soon as they were allowed and even joked they would have come back the next day. Baker said his first shift was nerve-wracking, but he’s easing back into patrol with time. Channel 9 rode along with Robinson as the 24-year-old officer made two stops in less than 30 minutes. The first was a local Exxon to check out a bucket truck that hit a light pole. Then, it was off to a local sandwich shop to sort out a verbal dispute.
The officers agreed that no matter what a call might bring, even knowing how bad it could be, they couldn’t see themselves doing anything else. But, this time around, they’ll do it with Shuping in their hearts.
(Watch Below: Concord police officers talk to Channel 9 about hero, friend, Jason Shuping)
“I wanted to come back for me, but also for Jason because I knew that’s what he wanted to do,” Robinson said. “He wouldn’t want this to end my career or Baker’s career. And we’re not going to let this one instance define our career, right? When we both have so many more years left that we can help the community.”
And when we asked how proud they were of their badge?
“Especially with this department? That’s everything to us,” Robinson said.
“Yeah, you wouldn’t think a piece of metal would be that valuable to you,” Baker said. “But it is. It’s special. It is.”
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