Baltimore News: Korryn Gaines Civil Trial

Korryn Gaines, a 23-year-old African-American woman, died near Baltimore on August 1, 2016 after a police standoff at her apartment that lasted for six hours. Her son, five-year-old Kodi, suffered nonfatal injuries in the shooting. Her death has resulted in allegations of police brutality and excessive use of force by the Gaines family and others, a wrongful death lawsuit against the Baltimore County Police Department, and a subsequent appeal of that lawsuit by the police department. Here is an overview of the Korryn Gaines case as it stands today.

The Circumstances Surrounding the Death of Korryn Gaines

The event that would eventually lead to Gaines’ death began with a simple traffic stop. On March 10th, 2016, Baltimore police stopped Gaines for driving without a license plate. Police arrested Gaines and prosecutors charged her with resisting arrest, disorderly conduct, and littering. Gaines failed to make it to her mandatory court date regarding the traffic violation, resulting in a bench warrant. Police attempted to serve Gaines and her fiancé warrants on August 1, 2016.

When police arrived at Gaines’ apartment complex in Carriage Hill to serve her the warrant at 9:20 a.m., a standoff ensued. Police attempted to open the door with a key from the rental office, but Gaines had used a chain lock as well. Police kicked in the door and Officer Allen Griffin went inside. Gaines allegedly pointed a shotgun at the officer and told him to leave. Detectives backed off after realizing Gaines had a gun and there was a child present. Officers called in additional specialized resources.

Police say that several negotiators – including Gaines’ friends and family members – tried to get her to surrender to police peacefully. Accounts say that Gaines refused and pointed the shotgun at officers several times. At 3:00 p.m., reports allege that Gaines pointed the gun at an officer and said she was going to kill him if he didn’t leave. Officer Royce Ruby shot Gaines. Gaines returned with two shots of her own. Gaines died from her injuries.

The Bringing of the Claim

On September 11, 2017, the Gaines family filed a wrongful death claim against Officers John Dowell and Allen Griffen claiming that the officer shot Gaines out of a loss of patience and personal frustration with Gaines, not out of fear for his life or safety. The lawsuit also alleged that police unlawfully gained entry into Gaines’ apartment and violated Gaines’ rights by asking Facebook to deactivate her account after she posted videos of the standoff.

Testimonies at the trial made a possible link between Gaines’ “impulsive behaviors and anger” and lead poisoning. The Gaines family filed a civil lawsuit back in 2012 regarding alleged lead paint poisoning from exposure in two homes. In the 2012 lawsuit, Gaines’ attorneys said that exposure to lead had caused a loss of IQ points, neurological impairments, trouble concentrating, and behavioral issues.

Final Words and Closing Statements Before Verdict

A defense expert on police use of force, Charles Key, testified on the last day of trial that the standoff between the officer and Korryn Gaines was “about as dangerous a situation as police officers face.” The plaintiff’s attorney answered the defense by citing the statements of six other officers who witnessed the incident and said that they were not in Gaines’ line of fire and never felt threatened.

The courts ultimately ruled in favor of the Gaines family, awarding almost $37 million in damages (mainly to Kodi, who received $32 million). The family won damages for pain and suffering, medical costs, and Korryn’s funeral and burial expenses, among others. The plaintiff’s attorney hopes the money can help the family move forward in light of the untimely death. In the latest developments, the Baltimore Police Department is seeking a new trial and requesting a reduction of damages.

If you or a loved one lost a family member, reach out to one of our wrongful death lawyers today.