A Maryland judge has overturned a $37 million jury verdict awarded in the wrongful death of Korryn Gaines, the 23-year-old woman fatally shot by Baltimore County Police officers in 2016.
A jury initially awarded Gaines’ estate about $35 million, along with various other payouts to family members, after she was gunned down during an hours-long standoff with police. Judge Mickey J. Norman, a former state trooper, dismissed the family’s claims, however, arguing that the officer who fired the fatal shot is protected from civil liability, according to the ruling obtained by The Baltimore Sun.
Norman’s decision follows post-trial motions filed by the city’s attorneys. Now, lawyers for the Gaines’ family said they plan to appeal.
“The judge’s opinion is factually wrong and legally flawed in many respects,” said Ken Ravenell, attorney for Gaines’ 5-year-old son, Kodi Gaines. “Justice was not done today. We will appeal on behalf of young Kodi Gaines. We will have more to say in the near future.”
Baltimore County officers were attempting to serve a warrant to Gaines and her fiancé, Kareem Courtney, at their apartment in the Baltimore suburb of Randallstown on Aug. 1 when authorities said the young mother barricaded herself inside the apartment with a shotgun. Gaines’ son and baby daughter, Karysn Courtney, were also inside.
Police arrived at the apartment after Gaines didn’t show up to court on separate counts of disorderly conduct and resisting an officer stemming from a March 10 traffic stop. Officers said they knocked on the door multiple times but got no response. However, they heard a woman, a man and, a crying child inside.
After securing a key from the landlord, officers unlocked the front door of the apartment and allegedly found Gaines seated with a long gun pointed in the direction of the officers with son, Kodi, cradled in her lap. During the six-hour standoff, police said Cpl. Royce Ruby eventually shot at the young woman because she pointed her gun and repeatedly threatened to kill him.
Ruby was the first to fire, prompting Gaines to fire back, police said. The officer shot once more, killing the young mother and injuring her child.
In 2018, a Baltimore County jury ruled that Ruby’s first shot was “unreasonable” and had thus violated the civil rights of Gaines and her son. The jury awarded Kodi more than $32 million in damages while his sister, Karsyn, was awarded $4.5 million, according to the Sun. Gaines’ parents and her estate also received about $300,000 each.
However, Norman wrote in his ruling on Thursday that Ruby’s actions were “objectively reasonable” and that he had not violated Gaines’ Fourth Amendment rights as her family claimed in their wrongful death lawsuit against the county and Ruby.
“The physical evidence is that she began to raise the shotgun, Corporal Ruby believed she was about to fire the shotgun,” the judge wrote. “Corporal Ruby was not required to be absolutely sure of the nature and extent of the threat Gaines posed.”
Additionally, Norman found that Ruby was entitled to qualified immunity, which protects government and law enforcement officials from civil liability when carrying out their duties. Ruby is still employed with Baltimore County police.
J. Wyndal Gordon, an attorney for the Gaines family, expressed disappointment over the ruling but said they have no plans of giving up.
“Nobody told us the road would be easy,” said Gordon. “I don’t believe God brought us this far to leave us. This case is by no means over.”