There are many kinds of crimes and violence committed against people of all gender, sexual orientation, and race. Sadly, over the past decade or so, in places like the United States, police brutality on black people has become a thing. There have been too many cases of police officers shooting and killing black people. This is not to say that all of them were innocent but it doesn’t make their stories any more palatable. On August 1, 2016, Korryn Gaines became part of the statistic after she was shot and killed in her home in Randallstown, Maryland by at least one police officer.
The 23-year old mother of two already had some run-ins with police officers under her belt. The officers had come to her home to serve her a warrant for an earlier traffic violation. However, Gaines was not co-operative and after a six-hour long standoff, the situation quickly went south and resulted in at least one police officer shooting and killing the young mother and injuring her five-year-old son, Kodi in the process. Her younger child, a daughter was unharmed.
Clips of the stand-off were filmed by Korryn Gaines and posted on social media sites as it went down. However, Facebook on the request of the Baltimore County Police Department deactivated Korryn’s Facebook and Instagram accounts. This earned the social media platform massive criticism as people accused the company of being implicit in the shooting.
Things To Know About The Shooting of Korryn Gaines
1. Korryn Gaines’s Background and Incidents Leading up to her Shooting
Gaines was working as a hairstylist in Randallstown where she lived and raised her two kids. Her mother, Rhonda Dormeus is a registered nurse, while her father, Ryan Gaines, had ironically worked as a police dispatcher. The victim has two surviving siblings, a brother, and a sister both of whom are older than her. The hairstylist dropped out of Morgan State University after she found out she was pregnant and took up employment to support herself and her child. According to police reports Korryn Shandawn Gaines had priors. She had previously been charged with resisting arrest, and disorderly conduct.
2. It was Initially All About Driving without a License Plate
This incident happened in March of 2016. Korryn had been pulled over for driving her vehicle without a license plate. In lieu of a plate, she had a cardboard plate that had an inscription on it threatening whoever tried to stop her and asserting that her right to travel was a natural right and freedom. When she refused to step out of the vehicle, the officer who pulled her over threatened her with a Taser. She was later taken in and according to her, she was kept in isolation for two days. She posted videos of the encounter on Instagram after her release.
When she failed to show up for her hearing for the charges against her, the court put out a bench warrant on her. This was the same day that she was killed. A report in The Washington Post, corroborated by Gaines’ lawyer alleged that her aggressive behavior was as a result of lead paint poisoning from the homes she had previously lived in. Her lawyer claimed that this led to neurological impairments and the loss of vital IQ points.
3. Korryn Gaines was Shot and Killed at her Maryland Home on 1st August 2016
When the police officers went to serve Korryn Gaines her warrant, she did not open the door for them. They eventually let themselves in with a key from the Land Lord. They found her holding a Mossberg shotgun and with her five-year-old son, Kodi. After several hours, the officers reported that Gaines started to threaten them and soon raised her gun as if to shoot.
They opened fire on her and killed her. Her son, Kodi was hit in the arm by more than one bullet, leaving him with an elbow injury, and bullet fragments on his face. Korryn’s fiance Kareem was also detained briefly before being released. He had managed to leave the house with Gaines one-year-old daughter.
The Baltimore County Police Department notably did not call for their Mobile Crisis Team during the altercation. The team’s objective is to send in a mental health clinician to help the police in responding to persons who are in need of crisis intervention in a bid to de-escalate the situation. Also, the Baltimore police had recently started a bodycam program. However, the events of the day were not recorded on any police officer’s body camera as they were not wearing any.
4. Reactions and Protests Following the Shooting
The incident brought with it an avalanche of arguments, protests from little known and well-known human rights organizations, hashtags on social media and so on.
The story which had already become an international news story was protested by a myriad of human rights activists. They urged others to join them under the “Say Her Name” banner, arguing that the murders of black women by the police received less media attention than that of their male counterparts. They revealed that Gaines was the ninth black female falling to police brutality in that year alone.
The Baltimore Police revealed that they had received multiple death threats and as a result decided to go against the standard procedure of revealing the names of the police officers involved because they feared that people would do them harm. They instead called for patience while the investigation was being carried out.
In Baltimore, local artists gathered to raise money for Gaines’ family. They also organized a vigil in her honor at the entrance to Baltimore City College, from where Korryn Gaines had graduated in 2010. Vigils were also held in many cities across the country. The historically black Legal institution, NAACP, around this time also stepped in and publicly requested the police to release pertinent information concerning the incident including body cam footage. They also asked for documents detailing operational policies on the execution of arrest warrants.
Other notable movements that carried out protests include Baltimore Bloc, Black Lives Matter, Black Youth Project 100, and the People’s Power Assembly.
5. Legal Proceedings and The Result of The Korryn Gaines Case
A little over a month after the incident, the Gaines family filed a wrongful death lawsuit. They accused the officers of shooting and killing Korryn out of impatience due to the prolonged standoff. A few days later, it was announced that the officer responsible for shooting Gaines would not be charged. This forced the Gaines family to amend their lawsuit. This time they alleged that the Officers John Dowell and Allen Griffin had illegally entered Korryn’s apartment. This was an allegation the police had previously denied.
However, in February 2018, a jury ruled in favor of the Gaines family. They were awarded over $37 million in damages. This was because they had found out that the first shot was fired by Officer Royce Ruby and was not reasonable. This meant they had violated her and her son’s civil rights. The compensation meant that $32 million went to Kodi, $4.5 million went to Korryn’s daughter Karsyn Courtney, while $300,000 each was given to Korryn’s parents, and another $300,000 to the deceased’s estate.
The Gaines family considered this a huge victory for fellow mothers who have lost their kids to police brutality and for the community at large. However, the Baltimore is disappointed with the verdict. County attorney Mike Field released a statement expressing his disappointment with the ruling. He also said that they were looking at their options, one of which was a possible appeal.