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Her brother was shot by an officer, now she's sharing his struggle with mental illness

Brittany Baker's brother was shot by an officer in the parking of the Whole Foods in Frisco. She doesn't blame the officer and instead wants to shed light on mental health issues.

DENVER — Brittany Baker's brother, Derek Baker, was shot by a police officer this week in the parking of a Frisco grocery store. She said her 33-year-old brother has battled mental illness for years.

Police said Derek Baker was acting erratically at the Whole Foods store around 7:30 p.m. Monday night. When they responded, Derek Baker allegedly threatened officers with his car. One officer fired at Derek Baker and struck him in the arm, police said. Derek Baker survived and the officer was uninjured.

Brittany Baker said she first learned about the incident from watching the news that night.

“And I saw the breaking news, a situation in Frisco. I saw the car. My heart just dropped,” she said. “He’s alive today, thank God.”

Brittany Baker said she does not blame police for what happened, saying the officer had to make a split second decision. But she wants to offer more context about her brother.

“In 2005, he was diagnosed as schizophrenic. In 2006 they added rapid cycling bipolar,” she said.

“When he’s not medicated, he doesn’t know who he is," Brittany Baker said. "He doesn’t know where he is. He doesn’t know why he is wherever he is. He's confused, he’s scared. He’s hearing things, he’s seeing things. He’s erratic.”

Brittany Baker said her brother has experienced homelessness and previous incarceration during his mental health struggles. She said he has been admitted to several hospitals in the past.

She said she has tried to help, but is limited in what she can do. Unless he becomes a direct threat to himself or others, it is difficult to get anyone to intervene and help, she said.

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“Literally every time he's off his medication you have to almost grieve a loss,” she said. “Because you lose the person as you knew them, so they may be there in person but they're not [really] there,” she continued. “If somebody walked in [to a hospital] completely inebriated under the same conditions… the hospital is not going to let them go. They’re going to say, you know what, you’re going to have to sober up and we're going to keep you, and we’re going to keep an eye on you and we're going to make sure you sober up and have a safe way home.” 

Brittany Baker said she wishes things were the same people who have been diagnosed with a lifelong mental illness. She also wants it to be easier for her to make medical decisions for her brother and advocates for better education and resources for people dealing with those battling mental health issues.

Brittany Baker has wonderful memories of her brother when she says he was healthy. She promises to keep advocating for him as long as she can.

“He’s still the little kid I remember. Super smart. Tried hard in school,” she said.“He’s my brother and I love him. And I’ll just keep fighting for him, it’s all I can do.”

Derek Baker was booked into jail on several charges. He had an advisement hearing scheduled in Summit County Court Tuesday, but it was postponed due to a medical issue not related to the incident, according to the District Attorney.

Andrew Romanoff, president and CEO of Mental Health Colorado, joined 9NEWS for an extended conversation about mental health in Colorado. He answered several of our questions about proposed legislation addressing mental health challenges, and answered your questions about this issue, too.

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