Baltimore, Maryland, USA: A jury on Friday awarded more than $37 million in damages in the civil lawsuit brought by the family of Korryn Gaines, the 23-year-old Randallstown woman who was shot and killed by Baltimore county police officer, Cpl. Royce Ruby in 2016. The jury took less than three hours to reach its verdict against Ruby and the Baltimore County government.
The jury of six women said the first shot which killed her and injured her then-5-year-old son, Kodi, was not reasonable and therefore violated their civil rights under state and federal statutes. Two of the bullets also struck Kodi, hitting his cheek and arm. Kodi’s father, Corey Cunningham, testified that Kodi is “a shell of himself” who is now skittish, untrusting and has trouble sleeping and behaving in school. He’s had surgeries and sees a counselor.
The jury awarded more than $32 million to Kodi in damages, and $4.5 million for his sister, Karsyn.
Gaines’ father and mother were awarded $300,000 and $307,000, respectively, and the Gaines estate was awarded another $300,000. No punitive damages were awarded.
Maryland has a cap on local governments’ liability in certain cases, however, and some legal experts speculated Gaines’ relatives might not see the full amount of the jury award.
The case garnered national attention, with some activists citing it as an example of excessive police force against people of color.
Kenneth Ravenell, the attorney for Kodi’s father, Corey Cunningham, said they were “blessed” that the jury “quickly, swiftly returned a justified verdict on behalf of a child who was victimized by Officer Royce Ruby.”
“This is a great day. This is a great statement on behalf of many who have been victimized by police officers — too many — in our community,” Ravenell said.
Cunningham said the financial award will help Kodi, now 6, “get the help that he needs.”
“I’m very happy that the jury came back and saw and realized what was going on in that courtroom wasn’t right, and what happened on Aug. 1 wasn’t right,” he said.
Gaines’ mother, Rhanda Dormeus, spoke to reporters through tears outside the courthouse.
“This win is for all of my sisters in the movement who have lost their children to police violence,” she said. “Some of them have never received justice, either criminally or civil. I just want to tell them that this win is for them.”
Family attorney J. Wyndal Gordon donned a Colin Kaepernick jersey before speaking to reporters. He said he was “filled with pride” that the jury made a decision to make the family whole.
“Royce Ruby was nobody’s hero. He wasn’t a hero to his comrades or fellow officers. He wasn’t a hero to the community. He was a coward,” Gordon said.
Baltimore County government attorney Mike Field issued a statement saying the county is “disappointed” with the verdict and “is reviewing all of its options, including an appeal.”
“A mother died, a child was unintentionally injured, and police officers were placed in mortal danger. By any account, this was a tragic situation,” Field said in the statement.
Through a spokesman, Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz declined to comment. Kamenetz, a Democrat, is running for governor.
A representative of Baltimore County Fraternal Order of Police Lodge No. 4 said the union had no comment on the verdict. Police chief Terry Sheridan, who was not with the department at the time Gaines was killed, also declined to comment through a spokesman.
Police department spokesman Cpl. Shawn Vinson did not comment directly on the verdict, but said: “We would reiterate that the state’s attorney’s office reviewed the situation and deemed the shooting justified.”
County Council Chairman Julian Jones, a Woodstock Democrat, said the case should prompt review of police department policies. Jones’ district includes Randallstown.
“I just think we should really review our policies, not just Baltimore County police, but all police… in terms of when it’s necessary to shoot and is there an alternative to shooting,” Jones said.
He also expressed concern over the cost of the case to taxpayers at a time when county leaders are “arguing over whether we can afford a school or can’t afford a school.”
Lawyers representing the family of Korryn Gaines, who was fatally shot by a Baltimore County police officer in 2016 during a six-hour standoff, told the jury in their civil case Thursday that they are seeking more than $42 million in damages.
For most of the day in Baltimore County Circuit Court,…
While Gaines’ family and attorneys expressed relief the jury agreed with them and found the shooting was wrong, some said they were frustrated Ruby is still on the police force. Ruby was promoted last year from the rank of officer to corporal.
“He should be going to jail for what he did,” said Gaines’ fiance, Kareem Courtney, outside the courthouse as he held daughter Karsyn on his hip.
He said taxpayers will likely pay the damage awards related to Ruby’s actions — not Ruby himself.
“He’s not going to pay. He’s going to go home to his family. My family has been destroyed. My daughter’s not going to know her mother,” Courtney said.
The financial awards granted by the jury are considered compensatory damages to those affected by Ruby’s decision to fire. Some of the damages are intended to cover direct economic loss, including $23,000 in past medical bills for Kodi and $7,000 in funeral expenses for Korryn Gaines. The rest of the awards were for non-economic damages.
The jury declined to award punitive damages, which are intended to punish a defendant or deter others from taking similar actions.
Throughout the trial, Circuit Court Judge Mickey Norman noted concern for the jury, especially as the trial lasted a week longer than anticipated. Three jurors dropped out of the case, including one who injured her ankle slipping on ice one morning. All three were replaced by alternates, leaving no alternates.
In the wake of Gaines’ death and other incidents that brought scrutiny on the Baltimore County Police Department, Kamenetz and then-chief Jim Johnson announced a number of policy changes, including the acceleration of a program to outfit officers with body cameras. Ruby was not wearing a body camera during the incident.
Police officers showed up to Gaines’ apartment at 9 a.m. that fateful day to serve arrest warrants on her and her fiance.
Assistant County Attorney James S. Ruckle Jr. told the jury that when no one would answer the door, officers kicked it in, and the first officer to enter the apartment was “confronted with Korryn Gaines with a shotgun pointed right at him.”
While Gaines’ fiance left the apartment with their infant daughter, she remained behind with their 5-year-old son. Gaines, 23, remained inside her Randallstown apartment with tactical officers stationed in the hallway outside for six hours.
Ruby, who would ultimately kill Gaines and injure her young son, was posted just outside her apartment door—which was cracked open.
Ruckle claimed that Ruby was in danger because although he was wearing tactical gear, his arms, legs and face were exposed.
According to Ruckle, Ruby decided to fire into the apartment when he saw Gaines and her son go into the kitchen. The prosecutor said that the officer believed he was firing high enough that he would miss Kodi if he was standing next to his mother.
In 2017, the department also began specialized training for officers in dealing with “critical incidents” involving people with mental illness or cognitive disabilities, said Vinson, the police spokesman.
Nearly 100 officers were trained last year and the training is continuing this year, including with all recruits, Vinson said.