We don’t really know what happened in the final fateful moments before the killing of 23-year-old Korryn Gaines, a young mother of two, who was gunned down by police in front of her five-year old son, Kodi, in her Randallstown apartment in Baltimore County on August 1. All we really know is what Baltimore County Police Chief Jim Johnson has told us.
Johnson says police showed, “extreme patience,” before they fired first on Gaines after an hours long standoff (initially police were at Gaines’ home to serve a failure to appear warrant for traffic violations, and other charges). The reason we have to rely solely on what Johnson tells us, is because although Baltimore County Police recently implemented a body camera program, none of the officers on the scene of the Gaines’ shooting were equipped with body cameras. And although the encounter with police lasted hours, there seemed to be no urgency to dispatch an officer with a body camera (or any other kind of camera) to the scene to document what happened. Additionally, Gaines posted several videos of her ongoing confrontation with law enforcement on August 1 via Facebook and Instagram. However, police asked Facebook (which also owns Instagram) to deactivate both of her accounts.
It seems County Police exercised extreme diligence in attempting to make sure the only narrative that emerged from this tragic encounter was the one controlled by Johnson. But, “extreme patience?”
When armed anti-government militants (if they had been Muslim and/or Black I guess they would have been terrorists) took over Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in eastern Oregon in early Jan. law enforcement and government officials didn’t engage them directly for days. The occupation ultimately ended 40 days later and one man was killed when he allegedly reached for his gun, while 27 others were taken alive. Now, I would call that, “extreme patience.”
But, back to Baltimore County.
County police engaged in another infamous standoff in March of 2000, which lasted for days, not hours. After Joseph Palczynski engaged in a murderous shooting spree in the Baltimore suburbs, which left four people dead (including a pregnant mother of a two-year old boy) he took the family of his estranged girlfriend hostage in their Dundalk home. After a 97 hour (!) standoff with Baltimore County police (Palczynski actually shot at police on several occasions during the siege), two of the three hostages escaped after drugging the gunman and that’s when law enforcement finally entered the home while Palczynski slept and killed him.
Joseph Palczynski killed four people in a span of about 48 hours, held a family hostage while he shot at police, and law enforcement waited almost 100 hours before they finally entered the home where he was holed up as he slept and killed him. Yet, Korryn Gaines dies in less than six hours after police attempted to serve her a warrant for a traffic violation.
During the August 3 episode of “First Edition,” Neill Franklin, executive director of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP), and a 33 year veteran of Maryland State Police and Baltimore City Police, discussed the dubious tactics of Baltimore County Police in the August 1 incident that ended in Gaines’ death.
“Now this is what SWAT, the tactical team is all about. This is what they do, evacuate the premise, isolate and then control and then negotiate and once you get to that point…time is on your side,” said Franklin, who was in charge of training during his stint with BCPD. “If it takes six hours, if it takes 12 hours. You know what? If people are inconvenienced for a couple of days, this is a life we’re talking about and also her five-year-old son,” Franklin added.
Ultimately, time was not on Korryn Gaines side in her deadly encounter with law enforcement and despite what County Chief Johnson argues, it seems clear she actually was not afforded the same level of, “extreme patience,” others have received during other perilous standoffs. Of the myriad questions swirling around Gaines’ death, perhaps the most pressing is why didn’t law enforcement give her more time?
Sean Yoes is a senior contributor for the AFRO and host and executive producer of First Edition, which airs Monday through Friday, 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. on WEAA 88.9.