According to The Baltimore Sun, a Baltimore County judge has overturned a jury’s decision to award more than $37 million to the family of Korryn Gaines, who was shot and killed in 2016 by county police after an hours-long standoff.
Judge Mickey J. Norman announced that Cpl. Royce Ruby, who according to court documents shot Gaines twice, was “entitled to qualified immunity”in a nearly 80-page ruling. Meaning that Ruby is “shielded from liability for civil damages” since he was acting in his capacity as a county police officer.
Additionally, Norman, a former state trooper, noted that Ruby’s actions were “objectively reasonable” and did not violate Gaines’ Fourth Amendment right against unlawful seizure, as her family had claimed.
“The physical evidence is that she began to raise the shotgun, Corporal Ruby believed she was about to fire the shotgun,” which could have injured members of his team stationed in the hallway, Norman wrote. “Corporal Ruby was not required to be absolutely sure of the nature and extent of the threat Gaines posed.”
“The evidence is clear,” Norman’s opinion read. “This Court has found that Corporal Ruby is entitled to qualified immunity and therefore, his shooting of Gaines was not unlawful.”
Of additional note, Norman’s opinion deems the damages awarded to Gaines’ family as “excessive and shocks the conscience.”
His decision came in response to post-trial motions filed by the county’s attorneys. The court will grant a new civil trial as a result of this new opinion.
J. Wyndal Gordon, an attorney for Gaines’ family, expressed his intention to appeal and “revive legal issues” the jury was the denied the opportunity to consider due to Norman dismissed them prior to trial.
“It’s devastating to a certain extent,” he said. “But they’re a very faithful family. It’s not over.”
“Justice was not done today,” Kenneth Ravenell, who represents Korryn’s son Kodi, who was shot twice during his mother’s standoff with police, said in a statement to The Sun. “We will appeal on behalf of young Kodi Gaines. We will have more to say in the near future.”
Per CNN, the jury’s overturned award, one of the largest ever against Baltimore-area police, broke down as such:
- $32.85 million awarded to Kodi Gaines
- An additional $23,542 awarded for his medical expenses
- $4.53 million to the Korryn’s daughter, Karsyn Courtney
- $307,000 to her mother, Rhanda Dormeus
- $300,000 to her father, Ryan Gaines
- $300,000 to Korryn’s estate
As we’ve previously covered on The Root, this case garnered national attention not only due to it serving as yet another example of police officers using excessive force against black people, but how Gaines attempted to draw attention to her mistreatment by broadcasting her standoff with police via social media. However, police had Facebook deactivate her account.
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.
Ruckle then placed the blame on Gaines for her son getting shot by saying that she allowed him to stand near her while she was holding a gun.
“What parent puts their kid in front of a shotgun? What parent puts their kid in that kind of unsafe position?” he asked.
He also blamed Gaines for her own death.
“Korryn Gaines started it. She’s the one who determined how it was going to end,” Ruckles said.
According to Baltimore County police spokesperson Cpl. Shawn Vinson, Ruby remains a member of their police department.
“Nobody told us the road would be easy. I don’t believe God brought us this far to leave us,” Gordon told CNN. “This case is by no means over. We will fight to the finish to preserve the jury’s verdict and restore justice to the family.”