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Crime

No charges filed in Korryn Gaines shooting

No charges filed in shooting death of Korryn Gaines, Baltimore County prosecutor announces.

No criminal charges will be filed in the shooting death of Korryn Gaines by a Baltimore County police officer last month, the county's chief prosecutor announced Wednesday.

State's Attorney Scott Shellenberger informed Gaines' family and their lawyers of the decision during a meeting in Towson. He also sent a letter to the county Police Department, writing that the officer who killed the 23-year-old Randallstown woman at the end of an hours-long standoff Aug. 1 fired the fatal shots because he feared for his safety when Gaines pointed a shotgun at officers.

"Based upon all of the circumstances, it is determined that this shooting was justified and the State will take no further action," Shellenberger wrote.

When the officer — whom police have identified as Officer 1st Class Ruby — fired at Gaines, he also struck Gaines' 5-year-old son, Kodi.

Shellenberger said in an interview Wednesday that investigators believe the bullet that hit Kodi first went through his mother.

Gaines' family members and their lawyers said they were not surprised by the prosecutor's decision, but still disappointed.

Gaines' mother, Rhanda Dormeus, said she felt "empty."

"I'm not surprised at all," she told reporters outside the county courthouse. "It's happening all over. ... I knew that the end result was going to be what it is today."

The death of Gaines, another in a series of African-Americans killed in a confrontation with police, drew attention from around the country and sparked protests.

In an interview, Shellenberger said, "No police officer wakes up in this county any day hoping that they're going to use their weapon.

"They wake up every day hoping that they can help someone or solve a crime," he said. "You cannot expect to point a gun at a police officer and not have it end badly. And that's what happened in this case."

Police officers went to Gaines' apartment the morning of Aug. 1 to serve an arrest warrant on Gaines for her alleged failure to appear in court after a traffic stop in March.

Police say officers also planned to serve a warrant on her fiance, Kareem Courtney, for an alleged assault on Gaines. Courtney's lawyer says he did not live at the apartment.

Shellenberger wrote in his letter to police that Courtney told police that Gaines "suffered from a mental illness and had not been taking her medications."

Police say Gaines did not allow the officers to enter.

After members of the Police Department's tactical unit and hostage negotiation team arrived, Shellenberger wrote, Gaines sat for hours on the dining room floor with a shotgun in her lap. For most of that time, he wrote, Kodi "was placed in front of her on the floor."

At times, Shellenberger wrote, Gaines was calm; at other times "she screamed and acted irrationally."

"She stated that the police were the devils, that they were crazy, that she had been unjustly kidnapped by the police, that the government had kidnapped her fiance, that the police were only at her apartment because she was black, that when she and her son were dead the news would report it and the world would know," Shellenberger wrote.

He wrote that Gaines said it would be worth it if she "took at least one of the officers with her."

At 3:24 p.m., Shellenberger wrote, Gaines stopped communicating with officers and became "highly agitated."

Kodi went into the kitchen, followed by Gaines, Shellenberger wrote. Once they were in there, he wrote, officers could no longer see the child.

Ruby could see only Gaines' hair and the barrel of the shotgun, Shellenberger wrote. He saw her start to raise the gun toward officers, he wrote. Police negotiators asked her to put the weapon down, he wrote, but Gaines did not.

Ruby fired one shot through the kitchen wall at Gaines, and Gaines returned fire, Shellenberger wrote.

Ruby then approached the kitchen from one side and two other officers approached from the other side to get Kodi, Shellenberger said in an interview. Gaines then fired a second shot at the two officers, just missing them, he said.

When she was turning the gun toward Ruby, Shellenberger said, Ruby fired three shots at her.

Attorneys for the family said they did not have faith in the prosecutor's investigation.

"What has been troubling is that there really has been no real investigation," said Kenneth Ravenell, an attorney representing Kodi. "What we've learned is that the state's attorney's office really was just fed information by the Baltimore County Police Department."

Gaines' family filed a lawsuit last week against Ruby and the county. They say Ruby shot Gaines out of frustration, not fear.

"My counsel and my clients believe that Officer Ruby was acting in a cowboy style," said J. Wyndal Gordon. He asked why Ruby fired when another officer near him did not.

Gordon, who wore a Colin Kaepernick jersey under his suit jacket, said Shellenberger's office gave a "rubber stamp" to the police version of events.

In their lawsuit, Gaines' family alleges the officers' entry into the apartment was improper. Shellenberger said it was legal under a 1980 Supreme Court ruling.

The family lawsuit quotes a neighbor, Ramone Coleman, who said he heard Gaines say she would surrender if police put down their guns.

Shellenberger said Wednesday that account does not match what Coleman told police right after the shooting.

Coleman said Wednesday he has been consistent in his statements.

"I'm standing by what I said," he told The Baltimore Sun. "I was there. The prosecutor wasn't there."

Police spokeswoman Elise Armacost said an internal investigation is ongoing.

The NAACP Legal Defense Fund called this week for an independent review of county police policies, including those on the execution of search warrants, use of force, and the deployment of crisis negotiators.

Ruby, a 16-year veteran of the department, was also involved in a deadly shooting in 2007. In that case, he was one of two officers who fatally shot a suicidal 24-year-old man, Adam Benjamin Rothstein, in Parkville. The shooting was ruled legally justified.

County Councilman Julian Jones is scheduled to hold a community meeting on the Gaines case at 6 p.m. Thursday at the Randallstown Community Center. Jones said he expects representatives from the police and Shellenberger's office to attend.

Baltimore Sun reporter Pamela Wood contributed to this article.

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