A Maryland special appeals court has ruled in favor of the family of Korryn Gaines, who was shot and killed by police in 2016. Since Gaines’ death, her family has continuously pursued justice in an ongoing wrongful death lawsuit. In July, the Maryland Court of Special Appeals reinstated a multi-million dollar award to the family.
Initially, the family was awarded $38 million in damages by a grand jury. However, Baltimore County Circuit Court Judge Mickey Norman overturned this decision in 2019. He asserted that Royce Ruby Jr., the officer who shot and killed Gaines, acted reasonably when he opened fire because she wouldn’t comply with commands to drop her weapon. Norman also has a law enforcement background, having worked as a Maryland state trooper for several years.
According to family attorney J. Wyndal Gordon, the family will have to return to court to nail down the details of the award. Some attorneys disagree about whether the original $38 million award will be reinstated in its entirety.
“She wanted to say that justice was on the wings for us, but that we would win this case. But, she’s very excited,” said Gordon as he spoke on behalf of Gaines’ mother.
After 23-year old Gaines was shot by police in 2016 following a six-hour standoff at her apartment in Randallstown, her family sued the Baltimore County Police, claiming officers used excessive force. Gaines’ son Kodi, who was five years old at the time of the shooting, was also injured by police.
Police have claimed that officers were attempting to serve an arrest warrant when Gaines held up a shotgun. Officers went to the apartment to arrest Gaines for failing to show up in court on a traffic case, and to execute a warrant on her fiancé for an alleged assault. According to the officers, after no one answered the door, they kicked it in to gain entry to the apartment, and were met by Gaines holding a shotgun in the air. The officers backed out of the apartment, and the hours-long standoff, which was partially streamed by Gaines on Facebook Live, ensued.
Eventually, Ruby fired into the apartment when he reportedly saw Gaines get up and enter the kitchen. He said he aimed for a “head shot,” in order to avoid hitting Kodi.
Lawyers for Gaines’ family say she distrusted the police because she lived with a mental illness that caused her to detach potentially from reality. “This is obviously huge for Kodi and the rest of the Gaines family,” said Ken Ravenell, another Gaines family attorney, of the most recent court decision. “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.”
However, while the family remains optimistic, it is possible that their legal battle isn’t yet over. County attorneys could still request that the state’s highest court wipe out the recent verdict. If the award is reinstated in full, Kodi Gaines will receive the largest share of it — a total of $32 million.