Korryn Gaines, a Baltimore County woman shot by police in 2016.
By Alexis Taylor
Special to the AFRO
Family members of Korryn Gaines, a Baltimore County woman shot by police in 2016, are still demanding justice and the $38 million awarded by a jury for the homicide.
Relatives are calling for federal charges against Royce Ruby, the former Baltimore County Police Department officer responsible for her death, and a full investigation into the judge and other local and state officials involved in the case.
“We’d like to see the officer in jail,” said family attorney J. Wyndal Gordon. “We want Ruby prosecuted -if not in state court, definitely in federal court. We want the County to show financial responsibility for the harm that Ruby caused.”
Five years have passed since Rhanda Dormeus, Gaines’ mother, arrived at the Carriage Hill Apartments in Baltimore County, panicked.
Inside apartment T-4 Dormeus’ 23-year-old daughter had barricaded herself with a shotgun and her 5-year-old son, Kodi. Outside of apartment T-4, Baltimore County Police Department officers were determined to end the standoff and serve a warrant.
The father of Gaines’ daughter had already left the apartment with the 14-month-old and surrendered to police for his own warrant, stemming from a domestic violence case between the two.
Gaines was wanted on charges stemming from traffic violations. She live-streamed the encounter for six hours. Gordon says the young mother was shot to death within two minutes of her live- feed being cut by authorities.
Several family members were on the scene that day but were not allowed to intervene. Dormeus told the AFRO when she arrived at the apartment complex she asked the officers to speak with her daughter’s mental healthcare provider.
“I had her therapist on the phone- that was my first line of defense,” said Dormeus, a retired psych nurse. “The lead investigator took the phone, hung up and said he would contact the therapist when he felt he needed her.”
That time never came.
Dormeus says that once police took her phone someone sent text messages to friends and family, including her now deceased daughter.
“They asked her ‘why are you doing this?’ She said ‘Ma, are you crazy?’”
Relatives and community members who became aware of the situation via local news and social media began to reach out to Dormeus.
“I had people say ‘you were communicating with us.’ I had to show them the release papers. Everybody was at my home when the detective came to bring me my phone with the documents saying my phone had been released.”
Gordon told the AFRO that a warrant for the phone was granted after it was taken.
When asked about the phone and the refusal to speak with Gaines’ mental healthcare provider the Baltimore County Police Department declined to comment.
“At the direction of the County Office of Law, we cannot comment on this matter because there is still pending litigation,” said Officer DJ Moore, in response to a request for interviews.
The family took their wrongful death suit to trial in February of 2018 after Baltimore County State’s Attorney Scott D. Shellenberger refused to press charges against Ruby.
A jury of six found that the family was due a multi-million dollar settlement.
Gaines’ son was slated to receive $32 million alone, after his face was hit by a ricocheting bullet. Another round completely shattered his elbow and required reconstructive surgery. Damages were also awarded to her estate, her mother, father and young daughter, but the victory was short lived.
In February of 2019 Judge Mickey Norman overturned the jury’s $38 million dollar payout to Gaines’ family, but the decision was immediately appealed.
“He can’t supplant his judgement of the case for that of the jury,” said Gordon. “We didn’t ask for a judge trial and we certainly didn’t ask for Judge Mickey Norman to preside as the arbiter of facts in our case.”
An appeal got the verdict reinstated in July of 2020 but also sent the case back to Norman, who could potentially reduce the amount of the jury’s award.
Gaines’ son was slated to receive $32 million after his face was hit by a ricocheting bullet. Another round completely shattered his elbow and required reconstructive surgery. Damages were also awarded to her estate, her mother, father and young daughter.
“These children are going to need a lot of help and assistance,” said Gordon. “If you continue to make killing African Americans affordable, we will continue to be killed.”
Dormeus, weeks shy of 55, now suffers from post traumatic stress disorder. Sleepless nights are followed by busy days caring for her 6-year old granddaughter and trying to get justice.
“I have to stay in this fight until the end,” she said. “They say ‘you’re not well’ but who’s going to fight for Korryn like I’m going to fight for her?”
Baltimore County Executive John “Johnny O” Olszewski issued a statement ahead of a protest last week outside of the Baltimore County Circuit Court Building where lawyers hammered out scheduling concerns.
“This administration inherited the case following the tragic death of Ms. Gaines, and our focus now is on doing right by the family of Ms. Gaines and, in particular, her children,” said the statement from the County Executive’s Office. “After years in court, the County made a significant offer to resolve this matter, which reflects the highest amount we believe the court may award under the law.”
The statement made sure to clarify that the officer responsible for Gaines’ death is no longer with the police department. They also have bolstered the body camera program that had only been in operation for one month before the day Gaines was killed.
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