Portland shooting victim's fresh start cut short – OregonLive.com
Kyle Polk was on his way home from his first job when he was shot and killed at a convenience store in Southeast Portland on Wednesday, his parents said.
It had been difficult to find that job unloading trucks in the early hours of the morning because the 21-year-old had been convicted last year for unlawful use of a weapon, a felony. He was sentenced to three years of probation and barred from spending time with gang members, court records show.
He also needed a job that didn’t involve work on Saturdays. Polk played drums in the band at Sharon Seventh-day Adventist Church, and he observed the Sabbath, which stretches from sunset Friday to sunset Saturday.
“He was so excited,” his mother, Kathryn Polk, said. “He texted me. It said, ‘I’m excited to contribute to the family.'”
Polk’s parents and his pastor say they witnessed a transformation in the year and a half before the shooting. The conviction was a kind of blessing, they said, because it prompted Polk to rededicate himself to his family and to God.
Polk’s family and friends describe him as smart and social, someone who saw the good in everyone and stuck by them, even when perhaps he should have been backing away.
“He was kind,” his mother said. “That’s probably what ended his life.”
After his arrest, Polk’s parents forced him to stay home with them in Happy Valley. He had no cell phone, no driving privileges. He went to church with them and more fully accepted the mentorship of his pastor, Kevin Rhamie.
“That’s when he gave his heart more fully to God,” his mother said. In September 2014, he was baptized.
Polk wrote a letter to the judge when he was arrested in July 2015 on weapons charges that were later dropped.
He had been pulled over for an illegal lane change while driving his father’s Jaguar just two days after getting his driving privileges back, the family said. Polk had three passengers, and police found guns and drugs in the car.
In the letter, Polk called his earlier arrest “a catalyst.” “Some would call the revival lining up with my release from jail and my house arrest coincidental but I consider it providential,” he wrote.
Polk explained how he found himself in that position. He had lost sight of his goals the year before and sought the company of people he found “abnormal and intriguing,” he wrote. “I was so focused on trying to fit in with these people that I missed seeing the inevitable consequences that being around gang members would bring.”
Polk was also clear about what he had learned: “No amount of illegal fun is worth the legal, personal and domestic consequences.”
This summer, Polk graduated from Clackamas County Community College with an associate’s degree, his family said. He planned to transfer to Portland State University and aspired to earn a doctorate in history and become a professor.
The draw of history was the storytelling, his family said. It was also through stories that Polk explained his social choices to his parents.
“People call them bad, they’re not bad,” Polk told his father about some of his friends. “He would tell me the story,” Reuben Polk said. “He would say they don’t have support. He was like a goodwill ambassador.”
One of the friends about whom Polk’s family had doubts ended up helping Polk land his first job. He was in the car when Polk was shot, the family said.
“He always saw the best in people,” Reuben Polk said of his son. “He wasn’t old enough and strong enough to realize sometimes you just need to make a break.”
As of Thursday night, police had made no arrests in the case.
— Carli Brosseau