The family of Korryn Gaines has settled a wrongful death lawsuit with Baltimore County five years after the 23-year-old Maryland woman was killed in a 2016 police shooting that left her then-5-year-old son with multiple wounds, including one to his face.
The family had been fighting for compensation as litigation dragged on for years. A jury awarded the family $38 million in 2018 — more than $32 million to the son, $4.5 million to his younger sister, and lesser amounts to Gaines’ parents and estate — finding that the officer’s use of force was unreasonable, but the decision was overruled a year later when a judge found that the officer was protected from civil liability through qualified immunity.
Atlanta Black Star reported at the time that, “Baltimore County Circuit Court Judge Mickey Norman 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.”
An appeals court overruled the judge’s decision in July 2020, paving the way for another civil trial.
According to Baltimore County government spokesperson Sean Naron, “an agreement has been reached in principle,” which the Gaines family’s attorney confirms.
The agreement was made last week and is still being finalized. The amount of compensation has not been made public. The news of the settlement comes five years after Gaines’ death.
On Aug. 1, 2016, Baltimore County police went to Gaines’ home to serve her with a bench warrant for failing to appear in court on charges related to previous cases of disorderly conduct and resisting arrest following a traffic stop, and her fiancé Kareem Courtney on a assault warrant.
Gaines pointed a gun at officers when they entered the residence after obtaining a key from the landlord, police said. Officers retreated before Courtney and the couple’s 1-year-old daughter came outside. Gaines and 5-year-old Kodi remained inside, and a six-hour standoff ensued. Gaines livestreamed much of the ordeal on social media before police had the streams shut down.
Gaines fired two rounds during an exchange of gunfire, during which officer Royce Ruby fired, striking Gaines and wounding Kodi.
Gaines family attorney J. Wyndal Gordon called Ruby’s actions “a violent, vicious, and ghastly homicide” after Baltimore County State’s Attorney Scott Shellenberger’s office declined to criminally charge the officer.
Gordon has also filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Justice. Ruby fired the first shot but claimed Gaines gave him no choice.
On Monday, protesters gathered in Patriot Plaza outside of the Baltimore County Circuit Court to honor Gaines five years after her death and called for police reform, more funds for mental health services, and for charges to be brought against Ruby. Breonna Taylor’s mother Tamika Palmer also spoke at the rally.
“We’re looking for changes in policies, we’re looking for changes in procedures, we’re looking for criminal prosecutions of bad police officers,” Gordon said at the rally. He called the settlement “amicable” but didn’t go into detail about it.
The Baltimore Sun reports that Gaines’ family had been seeking no less than $5 million, while representatives for her son were pursuing an award of $32.8 million. A separate settlement for Kodi Gaines remains pending.