The family of Korryn Gaines—the 23-year-old Black woman who was killed in front of her son by Baltimore County Police on August 1—just announced plans to sue both the county and the officer who shot her.
Yesterday (September 12), her estate served a letter of intent to file claim with the county executive, Kevin Kamenetz. The lawsuit will be filed against both Baltimore County, Maryland, and the officer who pulled the trigger, identified only as Officer Ruby per an agreement between the county and the police union. It will ask for $2 million from each for wrongful death, excessive force, gross negligence and suppression of speech, among other undisclosed anticipated charges.
The letter—which The Baltimore Sun reports is required when a suit will name a government agency as the defendent—alleges that Ruby has killed other civilians while on duty and says that Gaines was “illegally and unconstitutionally killed.”
Most strikingly, the letter provides an account of the killing from Ramone Coleman, Gaines’ next door neighbor. Per the letter, the SWAT Unit used his apartment as a command post where he and his 1-year-old daughter were held for the entirety of the armed standoff between officers and Gaines:
In order to execute the arrest warrant for failing to appear in court for traffic violations and misdemeanors on Korryn, the special forces from the tactical unit drilled holes in Coleman’s living room, bedroom and bathroom walls to monitor the movements of his next door neighbor, Korryn Gaines, with surveillance equipment that were connected to tv-like monitors in his apartment so they could watch what was going on in her apartment for [sic] different angles. Mr. Coleman stated that he did remember seeing one of the tactical unit police wearing a camera mounted on his helmet….
According to Mr. Coleman, between 10 a.m. and 10:30 a.m., Korryn Gaines said to the police, “If you put your guns down and back up from my apartment, I will come out,” but the cops did not back off….
Mr. Coleman stated that he saw police officers turn away Korryn Gaines’ family members from his window who desperately offered and pleaded to help deescalate the situation….
According to Mr. Coleman, the police said they were not leaving until Korryn came out. However, the police got frustrated because Korryn would not drop the gun and come out of the apartment, so they went in. Apparently, police didn’t feel like waiting it out any longer. Their inconvenience was worth more than her life.
According to Mr. Coleman, the last thing he heard before gunshots were fired was the police officer saying, “I’m sick of this shit.” Then shots were fired.
This seems to run counter to the police account of events, in which officers say they shot Gaines—and her 5-year-old son who was sitting in her lap—because she threatened to kill Ruby and pointed a gun at him.
Attorney Jimmy A. Bell also held a press conference today (September 13), during which he elaborated on the department’s alleged offenses, executing an illegal search chief among them. A portion of that event appears in the tweet below.
— Michelle Richardson (@MRichWJZ) September 13, 2016
The letter goes on to question why the officers applied for an arrest warrant that afternoon when officers said they were at Gaines’ residence to serve an arrest warrant: “If they already had valid arrest warrants in their hands in the first place before they tired to enter Korryn’s apartment with a key from management, why would they need to go rush [to] get another warrant and bring it back to the stand-off. Plaintiffs submit that County police did not have the warrant present with them to serve it.”
Bell also says that the crisis intervention team was never called in and argues that when the department asked Facebook to block Gaines’ live streaming, it violated her right to speech and effectively killed the “only independent visual video record of what was taking place before Officer Ruby killed her.”
Read the full letter here.