The inexplicable shooting of Korryn Gaines: Mother of 2 gunned down by Baltimore police
Korryn Shandawn Gaines was a Maryland mother well known to her social media followers. She was also perhaps well known by Baltimore law enforcement authorities. The 23-year-old was an activist that frequented protests against police brutality in the area. But what brought heavily armed police to her door on Monday, August 1, 2016, has drawn widespread condemnation after the woman's inexplicable shooting death in her own home.
Now her family has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the Baltimore County Police Department, according to ABC2 News. The suit claims that Gaines was executed inside her home during a standoff because officers got frustrated -- not because they feared for their life.
"We believe that Korryn Gaines was assassinated on this day because she was against police brutality, she took a stand against police brutality," J. Wyndal Gordon, the Gaines family attorney, said at a news conference on Thursday, September 15, 2016.
In late August, first-hand testimony from a next-door neighbor of Gaines' emerged in news reports around the country. His account of the shooting is included in an intent-to-sue letter that the Gaines family's attorney sent to Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz.
"She said, 'Put your guns down and I'll put mine down and come out,'" Ramone Coleman told the Baltimore Sun Monday. "They said no. And they said they were not leaving."
Korryn Gaines is dead because she was shot and killed by police who raided her home executing a misdemeanor warrant.
At her Randallstown, Maryland home, Gaines was gunned down in front of her child by police while she allegedly brandished a firearm at three officers during a several hours-long standoff. Gaines' 5-year-old son, whom she was holding, was also shot by police, although he suffered non-life threatening injuries.
At a news conference Monday night, the Chief of Police Jim Johnson said that when officers obtained a key to open Gaines' home and gained entry, they encountered her sitting on the floor and threatening to kill the officers.
But according to Democracy Now, court documents show that the officers actually kicked the door down -- a marked difference from entering with a key.
Officers obtained a key to the residence, but still couldn't gain entry because of a key chain lock. An officer “kicked the door forcing the door open,” according to the Baltimore Sun, which cites a warrant.
"Following a review of the entry, requested by Chief [James] Johnson, we have confirmed that the legal criteria for entering a home to serve an arrest warrant were satisfied," department spokeswoman Elise Armacost said to The Sun.
"If you don't leave, I'm going to kill you," police have said Gaines told officers. They say she even pointed a shotgun at them. A standoff ensued, in which officers say they were repeatedly threatened.
Gaines' family sees it another way. Why did officers have to use lethal force? "We see hundreds of videos where these people are taken into custody without harm. What was so different in this situation? If they truly felt like something was wrong with her, then address her accordingly," aunt Dawn McGee said, according to WBAL.
But why didn't they just leave? Could they have come back at another time, perhaps when Gaines had calmed down? Could they have negotiated with the mother when she agreed to come to the station? All these questions have gone unanswered.
“Perceiving not only her actions, but the words she used, we discharged one round at her, in turn she fired several rounds back at us,” Johnson said, according to the Washington Post. “We fired again at her, striking and killing her. Tragically in this circumstance, the child that was also in the dwelling was struck by a round.”
Gaines posted on social media several times during the standoff, including an Instagram video in which she asked her son if he wanted "to go outside," to which he replied "no." Gaines posted under the video that her son "was not a hostage" and that they were exercising their free will to remain inside their home.
"She was sitting on the floor. The weapon was on her lap beside her. She didn’t fire until they fired on her," aunt Shannon Gaines said, according to WBAL.
“Because she was broadcasting it to people who cared about her. They had to make her feel alienated, and they had to assassinate her right there with her baby sitting right there, and try to paint it like she’s the one that was wrong. She’s the one that was crazy. It is not right,” Shannon Gaines said, according to the TV station.
From WBAL, a telling piece of information has emerged that paints a picture of Gaines as a woman at odds with the system:
Police said the officer reported that the cardboard on the back of the car said, "Any government official who compromises this pursuit to happiness and right to travel, will be held criminally responsible and fined, as this is a natural right and freedom." The piece of cardboard on the front of Gaines' car had "Free traveler" written on it, police said.
When an officer asked Gaines for a Maryland driver's license and why she didn't have any tags on her vehicle, she said the officer did not have the right to pull her over and asked that the officer identify himself, according to the police report.
The officer said he then asked Gaines for her driver's license and registration, but she said he did not have the authority to ask her for any information, according to the police report. And when he asked her again for her driver’s license and registration, she said again that he didn't have the authority to ask her for it. Read more at WBAL
Police were executing a warrant on a man who was believed to be inside Gaines' home and also reportedly, on Gaines, for some "traffic violations." Police purportedly heard the two talking and raided the home, at which time they were met with force by Gaines.
Without the benefit of a body camera program, which Baltimore police say is still in its infancy stage and not fully rolled out, It is unknown what was truly said before officers opened fire, or if Gaines did not know if the men were police officers when they entered her home.
"We are of course extremely upset at an event like this," police spokeswoman Elise Armacost told reporters, according to NBC News. "We do not like to be in a position of having to use lethal force, but this was a situation where our officers exercised patience for hours and hours."
She added: "We are very relieved the child was not seriously injured."
There has been talk online about Gaines using her child as a "shield" -- but no law enforcement official has even used those words to characterize the woman's actions during the standoff.
Her sister Shannon Gaines told WBAL that harming her son was the furthest thing from her mind. A video Gaines uploaded during the incident clearly shows her asking her son if he is being held against his will. To which he says he is not.
“He wasn’t a hostage. He wasn’t a hostage. She would never do that. Before she would hurt her baby, she would jump in front of a bullet for him. She would not hurt her kids, and for them to keep portraying her as that kind of person is awful,” Shannon Gaines said, according to the TV station.
Gaines recently posted a video on Instagram that showed her loading a shotgun, which she called her "Big Girl." she had legally registered shotgun. Also police have admitted that they opened fire first, which calls into question why a standoff that reportedly lasted eight hours couldn't have been resolved without a woman and child getting gunned down.