Gaines shoot­ing called jus­ti­fied

Pros­e­cu­tor de­clines to file crim­i­nal charges against po­lice of­fi­cer

Baltimore Sun - - FRONT PAGE - By Al­i­son Kneze­vich

No crim­i­nal charges will be filed in the shoot­ing death of Kor­ryn Gaines by a Bal­ti­more County po­lice of­fi­cer last month, the county’s chief pros­e­cu­tor an­nounced Wed­nes­day.

State’s At­tor­ney Scott Shel­len­berger in­formed Gaines’ fam­ily and their lawyers of the de­ci­sion dur­ing a meet­ing in Tow­son. He also sent a let­ter to the county Po­lice Depart­ment, writ­ing that the of­fi­cer who killed the 23-yearold Ran­dall­stown woman at the end of an hours-long stand­off Aug. 1 fired the fa­tal shots be­cause he feared for his safety when Gaines pointed a shot­gun at of­fi­cers.

“Based upon all of the cir­cum­stances, it is de­ter­mined that this shoot­ing was jus­ti­fied and the State will take no fur­ther ac­tion,” Shel­len­berger wrote.

When the of­fi­cer — whom po­lice have iden­ti­fied as Of­fi­cer1st Class Ruby — fired at Gaines, he also struck Gaines’ 5-year-old son, Kodi.

Shel­len­berger said in an in­ter­view Wed­nes­day that in­ves­ti­ga­tors be­lieve the bul­let that hit Kodi first went through his

mother.

Gaines’ fam­ily mem­bers and their lawyers said they were not sur­prised by the pros­e­cu­tor’s de­ci­sion, but still dis­ap­pointed. Gaines’ mother, Rhanda Dormeus, said she felt “empty.”

“I’m not sur­prised at all,” she told re­porters out­side the county court­house. “It’s happening all over. ... I knew that the end re­sult was go­ing to be what it is to­day.”

The death of Gaines, an­other in a series of African-Amer­i­cans killed in a con­fronta­tion with po­lice, drew at­ten­tion from around the coun­try and sparked protests.

In an in­ter­view, Shel­len­berger said, “No po­lice of­fi­cer wakes up in this county any day hop­ing that they’re go­ing to use their weapon.

“They wake up ev­ery day hop­ing that they can help some­one or solve a crime,” he said. “You can­not ex­pect to point a gun at a po­lice of­fi­cer and not have it end badly. And that’s what hap­pened in this case.” Po­lice of­fi­cers went to Gaines’ apart­ment the morn­ing of Aug. 1 to serve an ar­rest war­rant on Gaines for her al­leged fail­ure to ap­pear in court af­ter a traf­fic stop in March.

Po­lice say of­fi­cers also planned to serve a war­rant on her fiance, Ka­reem Court­ney, for an al­leged as­sault on Gaines. Court­ney’s lawyer says he did not live at the apart­ment.

Shel­len­berger wrote in his let­ter to po­lice that Court­ney told po­lice that Gaines “suf­fered from a men­tal ill­ness and had not been tak­ing her med­i­ca­tions.”

Po­lice say Gaines did not al­low the of­fi­cers to en­ter. Af­ter mem­bers of the Po­lice Depart­ment’s tac­ti­cal unit and hostage ne­go­ti­a­tion team ar­rived, Shel­len­berger wrote, Gaines sat for hours on the din­ing room floor with a shot­gun in her lap. For most of that time, he wrote, Kodi “was placed in front of her on the floor.”

At times, Shel­len­berger wrote, Gaines was calm; at other times “she screamed and acted ir­ra­tionally.”

“She stated that the po­lice were the dev­ils, that they were crazy, that she had been un­justly kid­napped by the po­lice, that the gov­ern­ment had kid­napped her fiance, that the po­lice were only at her apart­ment be­cause she was black, that when she and her son were dead the news would re­port it and the world would know,” Shel­len­berger wrote.

He wrote that Gaines said it would be worth it if she “took at least one of the of­fi­cers with her.”

At 3:24 p.m., Shel­len­berger wrote, Gaines stopped com­mu­ni­cat­ing with of­fi­cers and be­came “highly ag­i­tated.”

Kodi went into the kitchen, fol­lowed by Gaines, Shel­len­berger wrote. Once they were in there, he wrote, of­fi­cers could no longer see the child.

Ruby could see only Gaines’ hair and the bar­rel of the shot­gun, Shel­len­berger wrote. He saw her start to raise the gun to­ward of­fi­cers, he wrote. Po­lice ne­go­tia­tors asked her to put the weapon down, he wrote, but Gaines did not.

Ruby fired one shot through the kitchen wall at Gaines, and Gaines re­turned fire, Shel­len­berger wrote. The of­fi­cer “quickly swept into the kitchen” as Gaines turned the shot­gun to­ward his team and fired, he wrote. When she was turn­ing the gun to­ward Ruby, Shel­len­berger wrote, Ruby fired three shots at her.

At­tor­neys for the fam­ily said they did not have faith in the pros­e­cu­tor’s in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

“What has been trou­bling is that there re­ally has been no real in­ves­ti­ga­tion,” said Ken­neth Ravenell, an at­tor­ney rep­re­sent­ing Kodi. “What we’ve learned is that the state’s at­tor­ney’s of­fice re­ally was just fed in­for­ma­tion by the Bal­ti­more County Po­lice Depart­ment.”

Gaines’ fam­ily filed a law­suit last week against Ruby and the county. They say Ruby shot Gaines out of frus­tra­tion, not fear.

“My coun­sel and my clients be­lieve that Of­fi­cer Ruby was act­ing in a cow­boy style,” said J. Wyn­dal Gor­don. He asked why Ruby fired when an­other of­fi­cer near him did not.

Gor­don, who wore a Colin Kaeper­nick jer­sey un­der his suit jacket, said Shel­len­berger’s of­fice gave a “rub­ber stamp” to the po­lice ver­sion of events.

In their law­suit, Gaines’ fam­ily al­leges the of­fi­cers’ en­try into the apart­ment was im­proper. Shel­len­berger said it was le­gal un­der a 1980 Supreme Court rul­ing.

The fam­ily law­suit quotes a neigh­bor, Ra­mone Cole­man, who said he heard Gaines say she would sur­ren­der if po­lice put down their guns.

Shel­len­berger said Wed­nes­day that ac­count does not match what Cole­man told po­lice right af­ter the shoot­ing.

Cole­man said Wed­nes­day to The Bal­ti­more Sun: “I’m stand­ing by what I said. I was there. The pros­e­cu­tor wasn’t there.”

Po­lice spokes­woman Elise Ar­ma­cost said an in­ter­nal in­ves­ti­ga­tion is on­go­ing.

The NAACP Le­gal De­fense Fund called this week for an in­de­pen­dent re­view of county po­lice poli­cies. County Coun­cil­man Ju­lian Jones is sched­uled to hold a com­mu­nity meet­ing on the Gaines case at 6 p.m. to­day at the Ran­dall­stown Com­mu­nity Cen­ter. Jones said he ex­pects rep­re­sen­ta­tives from the po­lice and Shel­len­berger’s of­fice to at­tend.

KIM HAIRSTON/BAL­TI­MORE SUN

Rhanda Dormeus, the mother of Kor­ryn Gaines, said of the de­ci­sion not to pros­e­cute, “I knew that the end re­sult was go­ing to be what it is to­day.”

KIM HAIRSTON/BAL­TI­MORE SUN

Rhanda Dormeus, the mother of Kor­ryn Gaines, lis­tens as fam­ily at­tor­ney J. Wyn­dal Gor­don speaks out­side the Bal­ti­more County Cir­cuit Court­house.

Kor­ryn Gaines

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