It has been 18 months since a Baltimore County Police officer shot and killed Korryn Gaines, a 23-year-old mother of two in her Randallstown apartment, and wounded her then 5-year-old son Kodi.
What began with three officers serving Gaines a bench warrant (not a search warrant) for failing to appear in court for traffic violations and other misdemeanors, evolved into forced entry into her home and a more-than-six-hour barricade. Ultimately, the situation escalated further into the shooting that led to her death.
Attorney J. Wyndal Gordan filed a $42 million wrongful death lawsuit against Baltimore County, Officer First Class Royce Ruby Jr., who fired the shots, four other officers—Officers John Dowell and Allen Griffin who were on site, and Major Woodland Wilson and Captain Elliott Latchaw, who were in charge of the operation.
Gordon is representing the estate of Gaines, as well as Gaines’ mother Rhanda Dormeus and Kareem Courtney, Gaines’ fiancé and father of her three-year-old daughter. Gaines’ father, Ryan Gaines Sr., and Corey Cunningham, the father of her son Kodi, are also part of the case and are being represented by other attorneys.
The month following the shooting, Scott Shellenberger, State’s Attorney for Baltimore County, ruled that Officer Ruby was legally justified in his actions because Gaines raised her shotgun. Shellenberger declined to bring criminal charges against Ruby or find any wrongdoing.
Gordon disagreed, putting Ruby’s “malicious” intent at the center of his case. After Judge Mickey Norman ruled against the county’s request for a dismissal, the jury trial began this month in the Circuit Court for Baltimore County in Towson.
Among the statements of facts Gordon presented in documents:
* Ruby “illegally, negligently, improperly, maliciously and unconstitutionally shot and killed” Gaines on Aug. 1, 2016, not because he feared for his life or perceived her as a threat, but because he grew frustrated by the amount of time it was taking for Gaines to surrender and because of the extreme hot conditions in the hallway of the apartment building. Officers were wearing full body ballistics armor designed to stop a shotgun blast and had safe cover behind brick walls in the hallway.
* Ramone Coleman, a next-door neighbor, heard an officer say, “I’m sick of this sh–.” The neighbor contends shots were fired from the hallway and he heard a male voice express multiple expletives. There was silence, then chaos.
* At approximately 10 a.m., Gaines
said to police, “If you put your guns sown and back up from my apartment, I will come out.” None of them backed up from the door.
* Family members, including Gaines’ mother, who is a psychiatric nurse, who were yards away from the command post of the standoff and pleaded with officers to allow them to deescalate the situation. Police declined. Police admitted they did not use their crisis team, which can be dispatched for these types of situations.
* During the standoff, Gaines began live-streaming through social media to capture what officers were doing to her in real time. Police asked Facebook to deactivate Gaines’ account and Facebook did. About two minutes after that Ruby, who had killed another citizen in 2007, fatally shot Gaines twice and critically wounded her son.
Gaines feared police and had a legal license for her shotgun. Police say that Gaines pointed the gun at them. Police acknowledge the officer shot first. Gaines’ attorneys say she was not pointing the gun at officers when Ruby shot her.
A decision is expected this month on the lawsuit.
NOTE: THE CIRCUIT COURT JURY HAS SINCE AWARDED THE FAMILY $37 MILLION.