BALTIMORE (WJZ)—The family of a woman fatally shot by Baltimore County police is seeking compensatory damages in a new amended filing on Tuesday.
In the amended complaint filed on Tuesday, lawyers representing Korryn Gaines’ family say they have added new information to their wrongful death lawsuit against Baltimore County and the officers involved, claiming that police “unlawfully searched” the apartment and engaged in “civil conspiracy”.
“The acts of the Defendant police officers unlawfully searching Korryn Gaines’ apartment by illegally entering without a search warrant or reasonable belief that Korryn Gaines or Kareem Courtney were inside,” the new filing alleges.
Lawyers for the family claim that officers were aware that they had no legal right to open or kick in the door to Gaines’ apartment; and that through their actions and omissions they “violated constitutional duties owed to Gaines, violated Articles 24 and 26 of the Maryland Declaration of Rights which guaranteed Gaines a right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures, without due process of law before being deprived of her life and liberty, and a right not to be subjected to death by excessive force.”
The shooting happened back on August 1, 2016, when Baltimore County police shot and killed Korryn Gaines, 23, of Randallstown, after she barricaded herself inside her apartment with her 5-year-old son and pointed a shotgun at officers attempting to serve an arrest warrant.
Police say she repeatedly threatened to shoot the officers during the 7-hour standoff.
Officers responded to the residence to serve an arrest warrant for Gaines and her boyfriend on charges stemming from a March 10 traffic stop that included disorderly conduct and resisting arrest.
A key obtained by police was used to gain entry into Gaines’ apartment where they initially met her boyfriend, Kareen Courtney, who was later arrested upon leaving his apartment with his 1-year-old daughter.
In the amended complaint, lawyers say that officers failed or refused to produce the arrest warrants and leave from in front the property after Gaines allegedly said, “Leave me alone and get the hell away from my house.”
Those representing Gaines say police escalated the confrontation into a “full-blown standoff refusing all options to deescalate the situation.”
Baltimore County State’s Attorney Scott Shellenberger says Courtney attempted to bring Gaines’ 5-year-old son, Kodi out of the home, but he ran back to his mother inside the apartment.
Courtney claims he told police that Gaines suffered from a mental illness and she had not been taking her medication.
For hours police say they used several means of communication to end the situation peacefully.
“Ms. Gaines had been sitting on the dining room floor for hours with the shotgun in her lap. For most of that time her son was placed in front of her on the floor. The police officers could see her and she could see them,” said Shellenberger in a statement last month when no charges were filed against the officers involved.
According to Shellenberger, during the barricade Gaines made statements that “police were the devil, that they were crazy, that she had been unjustly kidnapped, that the government had kidnapped her fiance, that the police were only at her apartment because she was black, that when she and her son were dead the news would report it and the world would know.”
Multiple times during the standoff police say Gaines raised her shotgun in the firing position toward the officers and threatened to kill them saying, “If you don’t leave, I’m going to kill you.”
Hundreds watched as the tense moments unfold as Gaines live stream the incident online.
[EDITOR’S NOTE: Video posted on social media by Korryn Gaines shows tense moments during a standoff with police. Video showing the shotgun was not filmed during the standoff]
Police, who eventually were able to deactivate her accounts by contacting Facebook, say social media followers were encouraging Gaines not to comply with requests that she surrender peacefully.
Lawyers for Gaines claim that between 10:00 a.m. and 10:30 a.m., she told police that “if you put your guns down and back up from my apartment. I will come out.”
Authorities in Baltimore County Police have not revealed any evidence to support those claims.
Shellenberger said Gaines stopped communicating with officers around 3:24 p.m. and became highly agitated.
Gaines then started moving about the apartment and into the kitchen with her son, again pointing the shotgun toward the officers.
Once in the kitchen, Ms. Gaines had cover and the officers could no longer see what she was doing, Shellenberger said.
Fearing for their safety and the safety of the child, an officer–later identified only as Officer Ruby—fatally shot Gaines during shootout inside the home.
“Officer Ruby fired one shot through the kitchen wall at Korryn Gaines,” said Shellenberger. “Ms. Gaines fired the shotgun. Knowing that Ms. Gaines had a pump-action shotgun, Officer Ruby quickly swept into the kitchen as Ms. Gaines was turning the shotgun toward where his team was set up and fired a second round. Ms. Gaines was turning the gun toward Officer Ruby. Fearing for his safety, the officer fired three shots at Ms. Gaines. Based upon all of the circumstances, it is determined that this shooting was justified and the State will take no further action.”
Lawyers for Gaines say the 7-hour standoff had taken a toll on officers, claiming that one officer uttered the phrase “I’m sick of this sh*t.”
“The officer [closest] to Gaines did not fire his weapon, it was officer Ruby, who was furthest away from Gaines who initiated the deadly incident,” the new filing alleges. “Officer Royce Ruby did not act reasonably at the moment he used force to shoot and kill Korryn Gaines; he blindly shot her through a kitchen wall, out of his own personal frustration rather than any true fear that she posed a threat to himself or others. His actions of shooting Plaintiff were malicious, sadistic, and done under color of law and within the scope of his employment.”
Gaines fired one shot during the standoff–a shot that family lawyer J. Wyndal Gordon says an involuntary reflex.
“It was a reactionary effect to being shot by Ruby,” Gordan said.
The Baltimore County State’s Attorney’s Office has yet to comment on the new claims.
No charges were filed against the officers involved last month.
“This office has determined that the officer was justified in shooting Ms. Gaines and the State will take no further action in this case. Criminal charges are not warranted,” said Shellenberger.