'The barrel was pointed right dead at my chest and my face,' says Baltimore County officer at Korryn Gaines lawsuit trial

The first Baltimore County police officer who encountered Korryn Gaines two summers ago recalled in court Friday seeing her sitting cross-legged and pointing a shotgun at him — a move that set off the six-hour standoff that culminated in Baltimore County police fatally shooting the Randallstown woman.

Testifying in a civil lawsuit brought by Gaines’ family, Officer Allen Griffin III said that when he saw Gaines’ shotgun, he immediately knew the situation was unsafe and that he needed to retreat.

“The barrel was pointed right dead at my chest and my face,” said Griffin, a 30-year police veteran who specializes in serving warrants in the Wilkens precinct on the west side of the county.

Griffin testified that he and Cpl. John Dowell went to Gaines’ Randallstown apartment on Aug. 1, 2016 to serve warrants on Gaines and her fiancé, Kareem Courtney. Gaines’ warrant was for failing to appear in court on traffic charges and Courtney’s warrant was related to an alleged assault.

Griffin testified that he knocked on the apartment door several times. Eventually, he identified himself as a police officer. He and Dowell both said they heard noises inside, but no one answered.

They dispatched an officer to get a key from the apartment complex management office and Griffin used it to open the door, but a security chain kept it from opening all the way. Griffin said he saw Gaines inside and recognized her as the woman wanted on the warrant.

Griffin said he tried to shove the door open with his shoulder, but that didn’t work. Dowell then kicked the door in.

Griffin testified that he went into the apartment and saw Gaines with a black shotgun “that she held right at me.” Choking up while recounting the incident, Griffin said he yelled to Dowell: “Gun! Gun! Gun!” and backed out of the apartment.

Dowell, a 22-year veteran, testified that the officers took cover in the hallway and he tried talking to Gaines for a bit before specialized units arrived.

Though he did not have hostage training, Dowell said he thought he would try to de-escalate the situation. Dowell said Gaines insisted that the warrant was fraudulent and ordered the officers not to come into her apartment.

“I was hoping she would come out,” Dowell said.

After a six-hour standoff, another county police officer — Officer Royce Ruby — who was standing in the doorway, fired at Gaines. He entered the apartment and shot her three more times. One of the bullets passed through Gaines and wounded her then 5-year-old son, Kodi.

Gaines’ family is suing the Baltimore County government and Ruby, who is now a corporal, alleging that Gaines’ and Kodi’s rights were violated through the use of excessive force.

The jury on Friday also heard from two tactical team officers who arrived on the scene, including Officer Andrew Callahan, a 15-year veteran who testified that Gaines said during the standoff: “I have a gun and you have a gun. The only difference between you and me is I’m ready to die and you’re not.”

Callahan said he was standing next to Ruby when he fired into the apartment. Callahan testified he didn’t hear Ruby say anything before firing into the apartment toward Gaines. As Ruby went in and headed toward the kitchen, Callahan said he followed and went to the living room. Callahan said he heard more gunfire and saw Kodi running from the kitchen.

Callahan testified that he scooped the boy up, checked him for injuries and handed him off to a medic on the tactical team. From the time of the first shot to encountering Kodi, about 45 seconds elapsed, Callahan said.

Ruby has not testified in the trial, but portions of a deposition were read in court in which he said he feared for the safety of officers when he decided to fire at Gaines.

The four police officers who testified on Friday were called by the county’s lawyers as part of their defense. The county’s lawyers indicated they would call two more witnesses on Monday, but they did not say who those witnesses would be.

pwood@baltsun.com

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