Shooting of Korryn Gaines

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Shooting of Korryn Gaines
Date August 1, 2016 (2016-08-01)
Time 3:00 p.m.
Location Carriage Hill Circle, Randallstown, Maryland, U.S.
Type Shooting
Cause Police serving bench warrant, leading to standoff
Filmed by Korryn Gaines (filmed portions of the standoff)
Participants Korryn Gaines, Kodi Gaines, Baltimore police officers (names withheld)
Deaths Korryn Gaines (age 23)
Non-fatal injuries Kodi (Gaines' son, age 5)
Publication bans Upon police request, Facebook deactivated Gaines' social media accounts (Facebook and Instagram) featuring live coverage of the standoff

The shooting of Korryn Gaines occurred on August 1, 2016, in Randallstown, Maryland, near Baltimore,[1] resulting in the death of Gaines, a 23-year-old woman, and the shooting of her son, who survived. According to the Baltimore County Police Department, officers sought to serve Gaines a warrant in relation to an earlier traffic violation. Upon entering her apartment, the police officers were faced with the barrel of a shotgun being pointed at them which prompted them to draw their guns, resulting in an hours long standoff. Gaines' five-year-old son was also grazed by a stray bullet.[2] Portions of the standoff were filmed by Gaines and posted to social-media networking sites where you can see her loading the shotgun, threatening to kill all the police officers outside her house, and attempting to convince her son that the police are there specifically to kill them; however, upon police request, Facebook deactivated Gaines' Facebook and Instagram accounts,[3] leading to criticism of the company's involvement in the incident.[4] In 2018, courts awarded the Gaines family $37 million in damages after finding that the first shot, fired by Royce Ruby and killing Gaines, was not reasonable, and thus violated their civil rights.[5]

Background[edit]

Korryn Shandawn Gaines[6] was a 23-year-old woman from Randallstown, Maryland,[7] employed as a hairstylist.[8] Her father, Ryan Gaines, had worked as a police dispatcher, according to depositions of Gaines' family in a 2012 civil suit. Her mother, Rhonda Dormeus, aged 49, is a registered nurse.[9] She also has a 32-year-old sister and 26-year-old brother.[10] Gaines was wanted on a bench warrant for failing to appear in court on charges related to previous cases of disorderly conduct and resisting arrest following a March 10 traffic stop and other traffic offenses, according to Baltimore County Police. Gaines was pulled over by a police officer for driving without a license plate.[11]

March incident[edit]

According to police reports, Gaines was stopped for a traffic violation for having a piece of cardboard with writing on it in place of a license plate. The cardboard plate read "Any government official who compromises this pursuit of happiness and right to travel, will be held criminally responsible and fined, as this is a natural right and freedom." During the traffic stop, an officer threatened Gaines with a Taser, after she refused to comply with his request to leave the vehicle.[12] Later, Gaines reportedly posted videos to Instagram and described the incident and subsequent arrest, stating that the arresting officers threatened to break her limbs and that she spent two days in isolation. Gaines was released with charges of disorderly conduct, resisting arrest and littering. Gaines' failure to appear in court over the traffic violation resulted in a bench warrant being served to her on the day of her death.[13]

Other factors[edit]

Reporting in The Washington Post suggested that lead poisoning may have contributed to Gaines' reported aggressive behavior surrounding her arrest in March.[14] In 2012, Gaines filed a lawsuit in Baltimore alleging lead paint poisoning against the owners of two homes where she lived, which her attorneys said caused her to have elevated lead levels leading to "neurological impairments" and the loss of "significant IQ points." A pediatrician report included in the suit stated that Korryn had "a history of problems with anger and impulsive behavior" and had trouble concentrating. The report also stated that Gaines dropped out of Morgan State University when she became pregnant and was working as a hairdresser to support herself.[10]

Shooting[edit]

Baltimore County Police Department officers arrived at Gaines' apartment at Carriage Hill Apartments on Sulky Court to serve her a warrant. Gaines was in the apartment holding a Mossberg pistol grip shotgun[15] and with her five-year-old son; a standoff between Gaines and police ensued.[16] Police say that after several hours of standoff, Gaines threatened officers with a shotgun. Gaines was subsequently shot and killed by police. Gaines' five-year-old son, Kodi, was shot by police,.[2] Kodi's arm was struck by bullets and suffered an elbow injury and bullet fragments in his face. Gaines' boyfriend, Kareem Kiean Courtney (age 39), who was living with Gaines, was able to leave the apartment with Gaines' 1-year-old daughter, upon which he was briefly detained by police before being released.[17][16][18][19] While the Baltimore County Police Department is equipped with a Mobile Crisis Team that "pairs a mental health clinician with a police officer to provide emergency police response to persons in need of crisis intervention,"[20] this unit was never called in to de-escalate the situation.[21]

The shooting was not recorded as officers were not wearing police bodycams;[22] initially police reported they were unsure if that was the case, as their bodycam program had recently begun.[23] However, portions of the standoff were recorded by Gaines and posted to social media.[24] Police later stated that while there is no police footage of inside the apartment, some officers assigned to support roles outside were wearing body cameras.[25]

Filming and social media[edit]

According to news reports, during the standoff with police, Gaines posted videos on Facebook and Instagram during the incident. The videos appear to show Gaines talking with police in the doorway to her apartment and to her son. In one clip, she asks her son what the police are trying to do. He replies "They trying to kill us.". She then asks: "Do you want to go out there?" "No," the boy replies. She then asks "What'd you wanna do?". He appears confused and stays silent. Gaines says, "there is no wrong answer,". [26]

Police contacted Facebook via the company's "law enforcement portal" and requested the account be taken offline. According to a police spokesperson, the account had been suspended but not deleted, adding that the video would be used as evidence.[13] This was the first instance where Baltimore Police requested Facebook to deactivate an account in such a situation.[27][28]

In a statement following the incident, Baltimore County police reported that they asked Facebook to suspend Gaines' Facebook and Instagram accounts during the standoff because of comments made by others to her video posts encouraging her to not comply with orders from officers. Facebook complied with the emergency request.[3]

In early November, a new video was released from the incident showing Gaines talking into the camera, expressing her exhaustion but concurrent refusal to back down from arriving officers: "I'm at peace. I'm in my home. I ain't trying to hurt nobody. ... They been quiet a while so they plotting to come in here and disturb the peace. ... I am not a criminal."[29]

Reactions[edit]

The death of Gaines, who is of African-American descent, received international news coverage. Activists have called for protests under the "Say Her Name" banner, noting that black women who are killed by police receive less media attention than black males. Gaines was the ninth black female to be killed by police in the United States in 2016 and although in nearly every incident questions were raised as to whether or not the women attacked police, only Gaines' death received nationwide coverage.[30][31]

Police allege that Gaines, though not actively affiliated with any specific anti-government group, identified and behaved as a 'free person' who does not recognize governmental authority.[32] Police say there have been multiple threats to police following the incident,[33] and have called for patience while the incident is being investigated.[34] Because of threats against officers, police have opted not to identify the officer who killed Gaines during the incident, though the department's standard procedure is to release the names of officers involved in shootings about 48 hours after such an incident.[33] In a county report, the officer is described as a 46-year-old white male.[25]

Some outlets criticised the extensive coverage of the event, and the allegations of racial disparity as a contributing factor, stating that the police officers involved behaved rationally and did not provoke the shootout, and that Gaines unlawfully threatened police.[35][36]

In the days following the shooting, local artists in Baltimore gathered to sell works to raise money for Gaines' family.[37] A candlelit vigil was held at sunset at the entrance of Baltimore City College, the school where Gaines graduated from in 2010.[9] In a number of cities across the United States, upon the urging of Black Feminist Future, a number of altars were laid to honor Gaines' and other black women killed by police. A number of the alters used the phrase "defend black womanhood" alongside other slogans.[38]

The NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund requested information and records from Baltimore police including body camera footage, policies on the execution of arrest warrants and a copy of the department's agreement with the county police union. Police stated there is no body camera footage from inside the apartment, but that some officers assigned to support roles outside were wearing cameras.[25] Following the publicized NAACP request, Baltimore police published their response providing some of the requested details and documents but declined to release certain information, stating that the public would need to wait until after the investigation is complete.[15]

Protests[edit]

According to some reports, Gaines' death was initially protested by supporters of the Black Lives Matter movement.[17] In the days following the incident, a protest was held in New York City, approximately 100 people attended, with the involvement of Black Youth Project 100 and a local group named "NYC Shut It Down" as part of a reoccurring protest event titled "People's Monday".[39][40] The Phoenix chapter of the African National Women's Organization held a protest for Gaines and two others recently killed by police.[41]

On August 13, 2016, in Portland, Oregon, protesters associated with Black Lives Matter and "Don't Shoot Portland" conducted a sit-in demonstration near Pioneer Courthouse Square and disrupted train services.[42][43]

On August 15, 2016, a protest was held outside of the Maryland Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) conference at the Hyatt-Regency hotel.[44] The protest was organized by Baltimore Bloc and the Black Youth Project 100. Twelve protesters were arrested for trespassing on private property.[45] A local police union official was suspended for describing the protesters as "thugs" in a department-wide email.[46][47]

A small protest occurred on August 27, 2016, at McKeldin Square in the Inner Harbour area of Baltimore; the group was led by the People's Power Assembly.[48] The protest marched from McKeldin Square to the Randallstown police station.[49]

Criticism of police[edit]

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Maryland condemned the shooting, releasing a statement saying that the police "decided that they needed to use deadly force to execute that warrant, and needed to expose themselves to the known risk of deadly force being used on them, knowing that a five year old child might be in the line of fire"[13] The National Organization for Women called for the United States Department of Justice to investigate Gaines' death, arguing that police were only at Gaines' home to serve warrants (not to arrest her) and were unable to deescalate the standoff.[50] The National LGBTQ Task Force condemned the shooting, calling on state and federal authorities to investigate the incident.[51]

Members of Gaines family have voiced skepticism of the police account of the shooting.[52] Civil rights activists cautioned against the authenticity of police reports released following such events.[53] Gaines' mother was reportedly at the scene before the fatal shooting, however, she stated she was not allowed to intervene in the standoff, though she had pleaded to negotiate to end the confrontation.[18][9] Gaines' family members reported being prevented by police from seeing Gaines' son when the boy was in the hospital.[9]

Some news outlets have called into question why the Baltimore County Crisis Intervention Team was not deployed. Police say trained negotiators were involved but could not respond as to why the unit was not dispatched.[32] Others suggest there are deficiencies in the way law enforcement attempt to deescalate interactions in minority communities, suggesting that Gaines' interactions with police may have been shaped by attitudes and beliefs regarding police and the justice system in urban black communities.[18][54][55] According to Vox Media reports, legally, the police officers only must reasonably believe that their lives were in immediate danger, but are not required to ascertain whether the shooting victim actually posed a threat,[56] however, activists maintain the police should have sought other means of resolving the conflict.[57] Others have called for the hiring of more female police officers, arguing that policewomen would be less likely to use lethal force to resolve conflicts.[58]

Criticism of Facebook[edit]

The incident is noted as being further evidence of a trend of live-streaming confrontations between citizens (specifically, African Americans) and police in the United States. A senior ACLU attorney questioned the request by Baltimore County police to shut down Gaines' accounts, and Facebook's decision to comply, stating that Facebook must exercise caution when dealing with requests by police to censor content. Artist and journalist, Ferrari Sheppard also criticized Facebook's involvement in the incident on Twitter, saying "Facebook helped Baltimore police kill #KorrynGaines in the dark."[27][4] The corporate watchdog group SumOfUs criticised Facebook for setting a precedent of censorship by orders of police, stating that the move is a threat to civil liberties, owing to the current use of shareable video on social media as an instrument in exposing police violence in the United States.[4]

Activists maintain that cutting off an account or otherwise controlling social media access becomes a strike against those fighting police abuse. The police may then have an advantage in controlling the narrative of the incident.[59]

Legal proceedings[edit]

On September 11, 2016, Gaines family lawyers filed a wrongful death lawsuit, alleging officers shot Gaines out of a loss of patience from the prolonged standoff.[60] On September 21, Scott Shellenberger announced the officer who shot Gaines would not receive any charges.[61] On October 11, Gaines family lawyers said that they had filed an amended lawsuit, naming Officers John Dowell and Allen Griffin as defendants; the Gaines family alleged they entered the apartment illegally, though this had previously been dismissed by Shellenberger and police officials.[62]

In February 2018, a jury awarded more than $37 million in damages to the Gaines family after finding that the first shot, fired by Royce Ruby and killing Gaines, was not reasonable, and thus violated their civil rights.[5] A statement from Baltimore County government attorney Mike Field said the county was disappointed with the verdict and reviewing its options, including an appeal.[5] On March 19, 2018, Baltimore County filed an appeal.[63]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Lartey, Jamiles (2 August 2016). "Black woman shot dead by police during alleged standoff while holding son". The Guardian. 
  2. ^ a b "Baltimore Police Confirm Korryn Gaines' Son Was Shot by Officer". TIME. August 5, 2016. 
  3. ^ a b "The Latest: Facebook Suspended Account During Standoff". Associated Press. 2 August 2016 – via The New York Times. 
  4. ^ a b c "Facebook Removes Potential Evidence of Police Brutality Too Readily, Activists Say". The Intercept.  August 9, 2016.
  5. ^ a b c Wood, Pamela; Knezevich, Alison (February 16, 2018). "Jury awards more than $37M to family of Korryn Gaines in civil case against Baltimore County". The Baltimore Sun. Retrieved February 18, 2018. 
  6. ^ Korryn Gaines; findagrave.com Retrieved July 20, 2017
  7. ^ "Who Is Korryn Gaines? Black Baltimore County Woman Fatally Shot By Randallstown Police with 5-Year-Old Nearby". International Business Times. 2 August 2016. 
  8. ^ "Korryn Gaines was passionate about beliefs, anticipated violent confrontation with police". The Baltimore Sun.  August 5, 2016.
  9. ^ a b c d "About 200 attend vigil for Korryn Gaines at Baltimore City College". The Baltimore Sun.  August 5, 2016.
  10. ^ a b "Woman killed by Baltimore County police ignored pleas from boyfriend to surrender, mother says". The Baltimore Sun.  August 2, 2016.
  11. ^ "Baltimore County Police Fatally Shoot Korryn Gaines, 23, Wound 5-Year-Old, Son". NBC News.  August 3, 2016.
  12. ^ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l3IqFYzl3Qg
  13. ^ a b c "Facebook deactivated Korryn Gaines' account during standoff, police say" – via The Guardian.  August 4, 2016.
  14. ^ Jackman, Tom (3 August 2016). "Did lead poisoning, and outrage over police violence, set the stage for Korryn Gaines's death?". Washington Post. 
  15. ^ a b "Baltimore County Police respond to NAACP letter on Korryn Gaines". Fox News. August 20, 2016. 
  16. ^ a b Khan, Saliqa (August 3, 2016). "Police: Korryn Gaines involved in police incident in March". WBAL. Retrieved August 4, 2016. 
  17. ^ a b "Mother holding five-year-old son shot dead by US police after traffic violations arrest stand-off". The Independent. 2 August 2016. 
  18. ^ a b c "Korryn Gaines Ignored Boyfriend's Pleas To Surrender, Mom Says". News One.  August 4, 2016.
  19. ^ Lopez, German (2 August 2016). "Baltimore County police shot Korryn Gaines — and a 5-year-old was caught in the crossfire". Vox News. 
  20. ^ http://www.baltimorecountymd.gov/Agencies/police/workplace_violence/wvmobilecrisisteam.html
  21. ^ https://www.baltimorebrew.com/2016/08/05/why-was-crisis-intervention-team-not-used-with-korryn-gaines/
  22. ^ "Police omissions and delays related to the Korryn Gaines shooting". City Paper.  August 9, 2016.
  23. ^ "Police 'don't know' if bodycams caught shooting of mother and son in US". The Independent. 2 August 2016. 
  24. ^ "Social Media Deactivated During Police Standoff With Woman". Associated Press. 2 August 2016 – via The New York Times. 
  25. ^ a b c "NAACP Legal Defense Fund requests documents from Baltimore County Police about fatal shooting of Korryn Gaines". The Baltimore Sun.  August 15, 2016.
  26. ^ https://www.instagram.com/p/BIktcsVgxyy/
  27. ^ a b "Korryn Gaines case: Video posting by suspects poses new challenges for police". The Baltimore Sun.  August 4, 2016.
  28. ^ "Korryn Gaines Blackout Signals Expansion of Law Enforcement's Special Relationship with Facebook". The District Sentinel.  August 5, 2016.
  29. ^ "Investigative files provide new insights into Korryn Gaines' 6-hour standoff with Baltimore County police". The Baltimore Sun. November 5, 2016. 
  30. ^ "Korryn Gaines, cradling child and shotgun, is fatally shot by police". Washington Post.  2 August 2016.
  31. ^ "Korryn Gaines Doesn't Need to Be Perfect for Black Men to #SayHerName". The Root.  August 3, 2016.
  32. ^ a b "Why was the Crisis Intervention Team not used with Korryn Gaines?". BaltimoreBrew.  August 5, 2016.
  33. ^ a b "Police: 'Unprecedented Number Of Threats' After Korryn Gaines Shooting". CBS News.  August 4, 2016.
  34. ^ "Police say patience needed amid Randallstown shooting". CBS News.  August 5, 2016.
  35. ^ "Korryn Gaines shooting — outrage or stupidity?". Hot Air.  August 2, 2016.
  36. ^ "Korryn Gaines Story Is Sad But It Was Not About Race". The Urban Twist.  August 5, 2016.
  37. ^ "Artists hold sale for family of Korryn Gaines, mother killed in police standoff". The Baltimore Sun.  August 7, 2016.
  38. ^ "Altars for Korryn Gaines, Other Black Women Killed by Police Pop Up in Several Cities". Mic Daily. August 9, 2016.
  39. ^ "Murdered by a SWAT Team for Traffic Tickets: Inside the Police Killing of Black Mother Korryn Gaines". AlterNet.  August 9, 2016.
  40. ^ "NYC Shut It Down in Abolition Square: The Police Are Assassinating Protesters". Its Going Down.  August 9, 2016.
  41. ^ "ANWO Phoenix Organizes Protest for Korryn Gaines, Dalvin Hollins and Loreal Tsignine". African National Women's Organization.  August 7, 2016.
  42. ^ "Black Lives Matter protest in Downtown Portland, MAX trains blocked". Komo News.  August 14, 2016.
  43. ^ "Don't Shoot PDX protest blocks MAX lines, ties up traffic downtown". Oregon Live.  August 13, 2016.
  44. ^ "Maryland FOP conference opens to protests in Baltimore". The Baltimore Sun.  August 15, 2016.
  45. ^ "The Long Road to Police Reform in Baltimore". VICE.  August 16, 2016.
  46. ^ "Baltimore police union VP suspended for email calling protesters 'thugs'". The Baltimore Sun.  August 15, 2016.
  47. ^ "Baltimore police union official called Black Lives Matter protesters 'THUGS' in email". The New York Daily News.  August 15, 2016.
  48. ^ "Small group protests Korryn Gaines' death". Baltimore Sun.  August 27, 2016.
  49. ^ "Activists rally for Korryn Gaines in Baltimore". Baltimore Sun.  August 27, 2016.
  50. ^ "#SayHerName: Loreal Tsingine and Korryn Gaines". National Organization for Women.  August 4, 2016.
  51. ^ "Police Killing of Korryn Gaines Is "Outrageous," Says LGBT Org". Advocate.  August 5, 2016.
  52. ^ "Korryn Gaines, A 23-Year-Old Mother, Latest Black Woman Killed By Police". Huffington Post.  August 3, 2016.
  53. ^ "Korryn Gaines shooting: US police kill woman as child watched". BBC News.  August 2, 2016.
  54. ^ "Whose Black Lives Matter? Musings In Defense Of Korryn Gaines". African American Intellectual History Society.  August 10, 2016.
  55. ^ "Does Korryn Gaines' Death Mark A Tipping Point?". Huffington Post.  August 8, 2016.
  56. ^ "Baltimore County police shot Korryn Gaines — and a 5-year-old was caught in the crossfire". Vox Media.  August 4, 2016.
  57. ^ "Why people are upset about the police shooting of Korryn Gaines — even if she shot at cops". Vox Media.  August 4, 2016.
  58. ^ "KING: To combat police brutality, hire more female cops". New York Daily News.  August 3, 2016.
  59. ^ "There's a strong new influence on the outcome of violent police encounters: Facebook". Quartz.  August 14, 2016.
  60. ^ "Family of Korryn Gaines files wrongful death suit against Maryland cops for fatal standoff shared on social media". New York Daily News. September 14, 2016. 
  61. ^ "Fatal shooting of Korryn Gaines by Maryland police officer 'justified,' prosecutors say". New York Daily News. September 21, 2016. 
  62. ^ "Lawyers for Korryn Gaines' family add more Baltimore County police officers to wrongful death lawsuit". The Baltimore Sun. October 11, 2016. 
  63. ^ Wood, Pamela (March 23, 2018). "Baltimore County files appeal in Korryn Gaines lawsuit". The Baltimore Sun. Retrieved August 6, 2018.