Suspected gunman in Portland double homicide was hounding victims for … – OregonLive.com
Colby Robinson, the Texas man wanted in connection with a triple shooting that left two dead and another critically wounded at their Southeast Portland home, had been harassing the family to give him medical marijuana even though he wasn’t a patient.
For weeks, he’d phone the dispensary, but brothers Andrew and Dat “Gary” Pham and Andrew’s wife, Sun-Lent “Susie” Chang, would ignore his calls.
Last Friday night, Robinson confronted the three at their home on Southeast Division Street, gaining access when another medical pot patient was allowed onto their property through their security gate, according to the family’s lawyer.
“The family didn’t want to engage in anything out of state or with anyone not in the Oregon medical marijuana program,” said Ryan Corbridge, who had counseled them about state regulations regarding their business. “But this man was calling all the time from his Texas number, and he was continually rejected because he wasn’t a patient.”
It’s not clear how the suspect latched onto the family or why he wouldn’t take no for an answer, Corbridge said.
The gunman killed Dat Pham, 33, and Chang, 41, with single bullets to the head, and shot Andrew Pham, 35, four times before fleeing into the dark. Susie’s and Andrew’s baby daughter, Alexis, had been sleeping in a bedroom and was unharmed.
The morning after the carnage, the Pham brothers’ father called Corbridge for help, asking him to come to the hospital. On the drive over, Corbridge called the lead Portland homicide detective on the case.
Police had few leads, and the detective asked Corbridge to try to find a family member or friend who spoke English and find out if they had any suspicions or knew anything about who might have fired the shots. Police also wanted to know if anyone in the family was acting oddly.
The detective, who had been up all night, said he was going to get some rest, but to call him if Corbridge developed any information.
Corbridge, a criminal defense lawyer who does some personal injury law with a practice in Hillsboro, is used to interviewing witnesses to defend suspects. Now, he was using those skills to turn up information to find a suspected killer.
The lawyer met with the Pham family’s close relatives and friends in a waiting area of OHSU Hospital’s ICU, where Andrew Pham was recovering. He first met with them as a group, and then spoke to people separately.
By 4:45 p.m. Saturday, he sent a text to the detective: He had someone that police needed to question.
Corbridge said he felt as if he served as a “bridge” between Pham’s Vietnamese and Chang’s Chinese family, who were devastated and not accustomed to dealing with police.
“I’m not a detective, but I was in a unique position where I was able to gain the family’s and this community’s trust, having just spent hours with them,” Corbridge said.
In less than 24 hours, Corbridge found a Vietnamese family friend who had been in the Pham apartment moments before the shooting.
The friend told Corbridge that hesaw Andrew and Dat Pham talking to a young man. The brothers were telling the man he wasn’t wanted there because he wasn’t a medical marijuana cardholder. The exchange seemed to be getting tense, and the friend became uncomfortable.
“He said it was getting heated, and he didn’t like the energy, so he decided to leave,” Corbridge recalled.
The family friend left about 9:50 p.m. Friday and headed home, about seven blocks away.
Just before 10 p.m., Chang’s brother, who lives in a second-floor unit next to his sister’s apartment in the same Southeast Division Street multiplex, heard a loud blast as he was watching TV. He thought something may have fallen to the ground.
Two to three minutes later, he heard a series of gunshots. They sounded frighteningly close, and coming from his sister’s apartment next-door.
He looked outside and saw the door to his sister’s unit wide open. He glanced left, and saw a young man, racing down the outside staircase. For a moment they locked eyes, the brother told Corbridge.
Chang’s brother went to his sister’s apartment. He saw blood at the door and three bodies on the living room floor. He immediately called the Vietnamese family friend who had been at the Pham home moments earlier.
The friend, just arriving home, phoned 911 at 10:02 p.m.
GoFundMe information for Pham family
At the hospital the next day, Corbridge found a room off the intensive care unit’s waiting room to talk to relatives and friends. Andrew Pham had been undergoing surgery for two gunshot wounds to the head, one to the stomach and one to his arm.
The lawyer soon learned that the man who had become a “nuisance” to the Pham family’s medical marijuana operation, which served roughly 80 to 100 patients, was known to them as “Texas” because a Texas area code popped up every time he called.
At 1:22 p.m. Saturday, Corbridge sent his first text message to Portland Detective Chris Traynor, telling him that he’d developed leads that could prove helpful to the investigation.
By 2 p.m., Corbridge gathered Susie’ Chang’s brother and two family friends to accompany him to the Pham home to retrieve belongings for the surviving 13-week-old baby. A great aunt was caring for the infant as the paternal grandparents stayed at the hospital.
As Corbridge drove to the crime scene, he discovered a key witness. The family friend sitting beside him in the front passenger seat told him, “I was there minutes before it happened.”
Once at the apartment, Corbridge stepped past two large blood stains on the floor of the living room, one by the door and one near the center of the room. He noticed blood splatter on the wall near the door. Other than some couch cushions appearing out of place, the apartment seemed largely intact.
Corbridge retrieved some of the baby’s clothes, diapers and bottles, left the unit, arranged for a cleaning crew to wash away the blood and then stopped for some fast food at Carl’s Jr. with Susie’s brother and two family friends. The four men sat eating in his car in silence, and then returned to the hospital.
At 4:45 p.m., Corbridge sent his second text to Detective Traynor: He found a witness that he needed to question. When Corbridge didn’t hear anything back, he called the police non-emergency line, saying he had information about the double homicide and needed to talk to a detective. He was told to keep trying Traynor’s number, he said.
Corbridge made sure the family friend who had been in the unit moments before the shooting stayed by his cellphone. By then, Corbridge also had found out from others that the man from Texas may have gone by the first name of “Colby.”
Around 7 p.m., Traynor got back to Corbridge. They arranged to meet at East Precinct 30 minutes later so the detective could interview the family friend.
On Monday, Portland homicide detectives hoped to question Andrew Pham about what occurred. He had gone through multiple surgeries, had been intubated but now was able to speak.
But nursing staff told police and Corbridge that most of the wounded man’s memories were long-term, not short term, so detectives decided to hold off.
Andrew Pham is expected to be blinded and permanently disabled, Corbridge said.
By Tuesday morning, Portland police distributed fliers at precinct roll calls, alerting officers that detectives were looking for 26-year-old Colby Robinson in the shooting. By Tuesday night, police in DeSoto, Texas, had located Robinson, 26, and shot and killed him.
Relatives remain grief-stricken, praying for Andrew Pham’s recovery. Corbridge has known the Pham brothers for about 1 ½ to 2 years. The family, Vietnamese refugees, had lived in France before coming to the United States when the boys were young.
“I think they were very compassionate people who believed in alternative treatments for those who suffer from debilitating diseases,” he said.
Corbridge can’t explain why such a tragedy occurred, and doesn’t know if the alleged killer stole any money or pot from the Phams.
“I think he was trying to threaten or force these individuals to act outside of compliance with Oregon law, and they were unwilling to do so,” Corbridge said.
“I ask that everybody hold the family, and Mr. Pham in their prayers,” he said. “We’re all hopeful that he’ll be able to regain consciousness and the life that he had before this. It’s going to be something very challenging for him to overcome.”