On Aug. 1, it will be five years to the day that police corporal Royce Ruby shot and killed Korryn Gaines and severely injured her then 5-year-old son in her Randallstown apartment after a six-hour standoff. Gaines, who suffered mental illness and was fearful of police, refused to answer her door to accept a warrant to appear in court for a traffic violation. Officers inappropriately got the key from Carriage Hill Apartment management to enter, but Gaines’ front door was chained. After a six-hour standoff Ruby shot Gaines, who had a registered gun, through the wall.
Baltimore County State’s Attorney Scott Shellenberger said Ruby was justified in the killing, but a jury that heard weeks of testimony, including from officers who were on the scene, disagreed and awarded the 23-year-old’s two children and parents $38 million in damages. The Maryland Court of Special Appeals upheld the jury award in July 2020, and Baltimore County has refused to pay it, offering a significantly lower amount. So the case drags on.
A rally will be held on Monday, Aug. 2, at 6 p.m. on Patriot Plaza in front of the County Courthouse to remind the public that while settlements have been made in high-profile cases across the country, and police reform legislation has passed in Maryland, justice has not been served in Baltimore County. The rally follows one held June 30 in Towson, which in addition to civil rights activist Rev. Al Sharpton featured other speakers.
Sharpton, president of the National Action Network, told the crowd of demonstrators holding signs #Say her name, that enough is enough. “I want to be real clear that I’m here for this mother and the children. I’m not here for politics and I’m not here for games. It does not take five years to understand what you’ve done to this family,” he said. “We came today to pick up a check, not pick up a date.” He was referring to a procedural hearing that took place shortly before the start of the rally.
J. Wyndal Gordon, an attorney on the legal team representing Gaines’ family, criticized the county’s handling of the case, as well as Baltimore County State’s Attorney Scott Shellenberger for declining to prosecute the officer. Ruby is no longer on the police force for reasons the department did not share but reportedly unrelated to the Gaines killing.
“We want closure. We want not only civil verdict, we want criminal prosecution,” Gordan said. “When a police officer commits homicide they should be prosecuted. If someone is liable for someone’s wrongful death and violated their constitutional rights, they should be prosecuted. They should be disciplined administratively. That did not happen in this case.”
Gaines’ mother, Rhanda Dormeus, said the delay in resolving the case has taken a toll on the family. “Baltimore County has put my healing process on hold. It has not allowed me to move forward in my life emotionally and psychologically, which effects my physical.”
An emotional Dormeus continued. “The jury sat for three weeks and heard harrowing testimony. They did not come to the decision on a whim. They heard the testimony of officers stating in so many words, ‘ We don’t know why [the shooting] happened.’ ”
Ahead of the demonstration, a spokesperson for Olszewski released a statement about the Gaines case: “This administration inherited the case following the tragic death of Ms. Gaines, and our focus now is on doing right by the family of Ms. Gaines and, in particular, her children. After years in court, the County made a significant offer to resolve this matter, which reflects the highest amount we believe the court may award under the law.”
To “clarify the facts,” the statement points out, Officer Ruby is no longer with the department (although his departure took place years after Gaines’ shooting and apparently is unrelated to her killing), that the administration has created an equitable policing workgroup, supported police reform and created a policy on when footage from body worn cameras should be released to the public.
Sharpton called the status of the case a national disgrace. “When will you respect the decision of the jury that was underscored by the Court of Special Appeals? This is a national issue when a judge can be overruled by the Court of Special Appeals, and you still sit around stalling. When a judge won’t recuse himself of deciding why he shouldn’t recuse himself, it’s a national disgrace.”