Lawyers for the family of 23-year-old Korryn Gaines, who was shot and killed by Maryland police in August, said Wednesday that prosecutors have decided not to file charges against the officers involved.
But when making that announcement, the attorneys claim that Baltimore County released new information about the incident that calls into question the officers’ account of events.
Gaines was shot dead by police in her Baltimore-area home August 1 after an armed standoff that lasted seven hours. At the time of her death, Gaines was holding her five-year-old son Kodi in her lap — the boy was shot in the leg but survived the incident.
Attorneys J. Wyndal Gordon and Jimmy Bell told ThinkProgress that Gaines’ family was disappointed, but not surprised, by the Baltimore County state attorney’s decision not to file charges against the officers. The two attorneys are currently pursuing a civil lawsuit against the police department.
“There is no reason for her to be dead today for a misdemeanor traffic violation,” Bell said.
Gordon said he learned of the decision during a meeting with the state attorney Wednesday afternoon, but the information shared confirmed his theory of the case.
The officer who fired his weapon, who police are referring to as Officer First Class Ruby, shot Gaines through an apartment wall.
“We were all under the impression that he fired his weapon when he was inside the apartment,” Gordon said. “But Ruby was outside the apartment unit.”
Before shots were fired, Gaines posted video to Instragram depicting the standoff. At one point, her son asks her what the police are doing, and Gaines responds: “They trying to kill us.”
Ruby and the other officers at the scene claimed that Gaines was holding a firearm and posed a danger to his and his colleagues’ safety. But attorneys told ThinkProgress that their meeting with the state attorney yielded conflicting information.
“What we also learned is that he didn’t fire his weapon because he was afraid for his own life,” he continued. “He claimed he fired his weapon because he was afraid his partner’s life was in danger. However, his partner was not in the field of view of Korryn Gaines and it would be impossible for Korryn Gaines — from where they indicate she was located — to make the shot and hit this particular officer.”
According to Gordon, the officers entered Gaines’ home because of outstanding warrants for disorderly conduct, resisting arrest, and several traffic violations. Police knocked on the door, and after claiming they heard voices but no answer, they obtained a key from the landlord.
Gordon said Wednesday that the arrest warrant did not allow officers to get the key and enter or search the apartment on their own.
“They never had a search warrant, and that’s a big deal in this case,” Gordon said.
On Tuesday, the NAACP Legal Defense Fund asked Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz to launch an independent review of the police department’s use of force and arrest warrants. Sherrilyn A. Ifill wrote in a letter that the “shooting of Korryn Gaines and other incidents involving the use of force by [the department] demand your full attention in order to build trust and public confidence in the police department.”
Gordon and Bell said they also plan to move forward with the civil lawsuit filed on behalf of Gaines’ family earlier this month to ensure that Officer Ruby, who has now killed two people while on the job, is removed from the force.
According to the Baltimore Sun, Ruby has been assigned to administrative duties until the completion of the investigation.
“We’ll see if people are going to lie and put their careers and their pensions and their families’ stability on the line for Officer Ruby, and we don’t believe that’s going to happen,” Bell said. “Somebody is going to do the right thing.”