Appeals court reinstates $38m to family of Black woman killed by Baltimore police

Francis Akhalbey Jul 3, 2020 at 10:00am

July 03, 2020 at 10:00 am | News

Francis Akhalbey

Francis Akhalbey | Content Manager

July 03, 2020 at 10:00 am | News

Korryn Gaines was fatally shot by Baltimore County Police during a six-hour standoff in 2016 -- Photo via BET

Korryn Gaines was 23 when she was fatally shot by Baltimore County Police during a six-hour standoff in Randallstown in 2016. Gaines’ five-year-old son, Kodi, was with her in the apartment during the standoff and was also struck across the cheek by one of the bullets. He had to undergo several surgeries to remove the bullet fragments as a result.

Following the incident, Gaines’ family sued the Baltimore County Police, claiming the officers involved used excessive force when they fatally shot her and injured her son, WJZ-TV reports. Gaines’ family was subsequently awarded $38 million by a grand jury in 2018, making it the largest ever award against a Baltimore county police force.

In 2019, however, a Baltimore County Circuit Court judge overturned the ruling on the grounds of qualified immunity for the officer who fired at Gaines. The judge also argued the officer in question, Cpl. Royce Ruby, acted reasonably when he opened fire because Gaines was armed and refused to comply with orders to drop her shotgun, according to The Baltimore Sun.

Gaines’ family attorneys appealed the ruling and on Wednesday, state appeals court judges ruled in their favor, arguing that the lower court abused its discretion when it overturned the jury’s verdict to award Gaines’ family and Kodi the money, The Baltimore Sun further reports.

“This is obviously huge for Kodi and the rest of the Gaines family,” their family attorney, Ken Ravenell, said, adding that the money would be reinstated in full for the moment. “The court found that the trial judge violated the law in taking that verdict away. They can now expect that they can collect a significant award in the near future.”

Ravenell also said the opinion allows for a lower court to either review the amount or grant a new civil trial. A Baltimore County spokesman, however, told The Baltimore Sun their attorneys believe the opinion rather reduces the award by a large chunk.

“The County is continuing a comprehensive evaluation of the opinion and considering further action,” he said. “We cannot comment further.”

The August 2016 incident occurred when officers went to Gaines’ apartment to serve her an arrest warrant for not showing up in court for a traffic offence as well as an alleged assault on her fiancée. After officers were unable to gain entry into her apartment, they got a key from the apartment office and attempted unlocking the door. They, however, still could not enter as the door was enforced with a chain lock and ended up having to break it.

Upon entry, the first officer who saw Gaines testified he saw her armed with a shotgun and alerted his partner. They then went out. The standoff lasted several hours and at certain points, Gaines, whose family attorneys argued suffered a mental condition and did not trust the police, filmed the confrontation live on Facebook. She also occasionally gave her son the phone to film. The police were eventually able to have her Facebook and Instagram accounts temporarily deactivated.

Speaking to a therapist in the aftermath of the incident, Kodi claimed his mother was shot when she went to the kitchen to make him a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Gaines was shot multiple times and the first bullet that hit her and was fired from the hallway, ricocheted off a fridge and stuck Kodi in the cheek, injuring him in the process. Ruby testified that Gaines, who reportedly fired once during the exchange, pointed her gun at them when she went to the kitchen.

According to Kodi’s father, the incident has left his son needing a counselor as he is “a shell of himself.” Ravenell, however, hopes the recent judgment would provide the much-needed financial assistance Kodi and his family needs, The Baltimore Sun reports.

“This gives them the hope that in the very near future a young Kodi will get the psychological care that he needs so desperately.”

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