Attorneys are expected to spend Thursday making closing in arguments in the civil lawsuit filed by the family of Korryn Gaines against Baltimore County government and the police officer who fatally shot her in 2016 during a six-hour standoff.
For two-and-a-half weeks, lawyers have made their cases over whether the county and the police officer should be held liable for the death of Gaines and for injuries sustained by her then-5-year-old son Kodi.
Baltimore County Circuit Court Judge Mickey Norman said that while jurors will get detailed jury instructions, the key decision they must make is whether it was a reasonable decision for Officer Royce Ruby to shoot at Gaines on Aug. 1, 2016.
“The singular question here is whether the first shot was reasonable,” Norman told the lawyers Thursday without the jury present.
That morning, two Baltimore County Police officers went to Gaines’ Randallstown apartment to serve a warrant on her for failing to appear in court in a traffic case and on her fiance for an alleged assault.
The fiance left with an infant daughter while Gaines, armed with a shotgun, stayed in the apartment with Kodi. A six-hour standoff with police ensued, some of which Gaines broadcast on social media until police succeeded in having her accounts shut down.
The standoff ended when Ruby, who now holds the rank of corporal, fire his gun once after he said he saw the barrel of Gaines’ gun rise. The bullet went through a wall, struck Gaines behind her left armpit and traveled laterally through her lungs and spine before exiting on her right side, hitting a refrigerator and ultimately striking Kodi, according to expert testimony in the trial.
Gaines was killed and Kodi suffered injuries to his face and arm. His father testified last week that Kodi, now 6, is now skittish and has trouble sleeping and behaving in school.
Ruby went into the apartment and fired three more times when he saw that Gaines still had the gun.
“There was no choice,” Ruby testified during the trial. “Officers were going to die if I didn’t take that shot.”
Lawyers for Gaines’ family have worked to build a case that Ruby did not reasonably fear for his life or that of other officers. They’ve pointed out that Ruby and other officers in the hallway outside the apartment were dressed in protective tactical gear.
They have noted that officers gave inconsistent accounts of the position of Officer Andrew Callahan, who testified he was standing next to Ruby when Ruby fired into the apartment at Gaines. The plaintiffs’ lawyers pointed out inconsistencies between some officers’ statements in pre-trial depositions and their testimony in the trial.
Lawyers for the county, meanwhile, have worked to establish that Gaines presented an imminent threat to Ruby and the other officers.
The jury is expected Thursday to hear detailed instructions laying out the multiple counts in the lawsuit, including claims that the shooting was an unconstitutional use of excessive force.
Closing arguments are expected to last for several hours. Three lawyers for different members of Gaines’ family plan to give closing statements, and one of the lawyers for Ruby and the county government will also give a closing statement.
The trial, which began Jan. 30, has lasted longer than the initial prediction of two weeks. The trial began with six jurors and three alternate jurors, all women.
All three alternates have replaced original jurors who have dropped out for various reasons, including one who was injured after falling on ice one morning.