A Baltimore County jury awarded $37 million in damages to the family of Korryn Gaines, a black Maryland woman killed by county police in an August 2016 standoff that also injured her 5-year-old son.
The six female jurors decided in less than three hours that Cpl. Royce Ruby, the Baltimore County officer who fired the fatal shots, violated the civil rights of Gaines, 23, and her son, Kodi.
Ruby shot and killed Gaines on Aug. 1 during a confrontation in Randallstown, a suburb northwest of Baltimore City. Police serving a warrant for failure to appear in court over a traffic case kicked in the door to Gaines’s apartment to find her waiting with a shotgun. The ensuing six-hour ordeal ended when Ruby opened fire, killing Gaines and injuring Kodi.
The civil suit decision awarded more than $32 million to Kodi, $4.5 million to his toddler sister, Karsyn, and nearly a million dollars among Gaines’s parents and estate, court documents said.
Gaines family attorney J. Wyndal Gordon told The Washington Post on Saturday that the verdict was a “great decision” that will help make Gaines’s family whole after the incident. Gaines was shot four times by Ruby; one shot pierced her lungs and spine, and a ricochet struck her son, he said.
“Where is your moral compass?” Gordon asked rhetorically. “It was callous and sadistic.”
Ruby, who is white, remains on the police force and was promoted to corporal last year.
After the verdict was announced, Baltimore County Attorney Mike Field said in a statement that the county was “disappointed” by the decision and was reviewing its options, including an appeal.
“A mother died, a child was unintentionally injured and police officers were placed in mortal danger. By any account, this was a tragic situation,” Field said.
Baltimore County police spokesman Shawn Vinson told the Baltimore Sun that “the state’s attorney’s office reviewed the situation and deemed the shooting justified.” He declined to comment further.
Gaines’s mother, Rhanda Dormeus, told reporters Friday that she believed police were untruthful in testimony describing the shooting and the threat posed by Gaines.
“What we want is constitutional policing. We want them to be fair, we want them to have integrity, and we want justice,” Dormeus said. “And if they can’t do that, they shouldn’t be a part of the police force.” Since the incident, the county police department has expanded body camera wear for its officers and in 2017 began training for incidents involving people with mental-health issues. The county executive and local fraternal order of police group also did not return requests for comment.
Ruby testified that Gaines moved into the kitchen, with only her long braids and shotgun barrel visible. He fired once through a wall, believing she was raising her weapon to a firing position.
“There was no choice,” Ruby testified. “Officers were going to die if I didn’t take that shot.” He entered the room and fired three more rounds into Gaines, saying he feared that her finger was on the trigger.
Gordon disputed that version of events, saying Gaines was shot in the back, her lungs full of blood, indicating the additional shots Ruby took were unjustified.
Speaking outside the courthouse Friday, Kareem Courtney, Gaines’s boyfriend and Karsyn’s father, said taxpayers will bear the burden of the award, not Ruby.
“He’s not going to pay. He’s going to go home to his family. My family has been destroyed. My daughter’s not going to know her mother,” Courtney said, according to the Sun.
Kenneth Ravenell, the attorney for Kodi’s father, Corey Cunningham, told The Post that damages for the boy will be helpful for a lifetime of counseling and psychological treatment. Kodi explained in therapy that his mother went to make him a peanut butter and jelly sandwich when she was shot, Cunningham testified.
Bearing witness to his mother’s death has jarred Kodi, his family members and teachers testified. “He’s a shell of himself,” Ravenell said, a once outgoing and happy child now introverted and sullen.
*Originally posted on the Washington Post.