In the wake of the standoff on Monday that led to Baltimore County Police shooting and killing 23-year-old Korryn Gaines, some veteran police officers questioned how the standoff was handled tactically.
"It seemed like they were pushing," said a former Baltimore City Police commander who did not want his name used. "They might have had a commander back them off."
Neil Franklin, a retired Maryland State Police major who now heads Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, a drug-law-reform non-profit, says the same. Once the tactical team had evacuated the area, set up a perimeter and cut off communication by deactivating Gaines' Facebook and Instagram accounts, "Then time is on your side," he says.
After barricading herself in her Randallstown apartment and after hours of negotiation with police, Gaines pointed her Mossberg shotgun at officers and said, "If you don't leave, I'm going to kill you. I'm going to kill you."
Police say they fired a round at her. After Gaines fired several rounds, police shot again, killing her. At some point in the exchange of fire, Gaines' 5-year-old son was injured. On Friday, a little after 5 p.m., Baltimore County Police released a statement saying they "believe" the bullet that struck the boy came from one of their tactical officers.
Both Franklin and the other officer cautioned that they weren't there, and so can't say definitively whether any tactical errors were made. But Franklin, who served on a SWAT team in the early 1980s and whose brother commanded the MSP SWAT team for "many, many years," says the county police should have understood Gaines' state of mind, given her prior behavior with the officers who pulled her over in her car. They might have tried to get her to release her son to her mother. And they might have been able to avoid shooting.
"Why was she able to point her weapon at a member of the tactical unit, who apparently felt they did not have sufficient cover, in case she fired?" Franklin asks. "There could be a valid reason. [But] she pointed it at the three that came—and they didn't fire. So why did the SWAT guys have to?"
That a police tactical officer fired the first shot, and missed, also troubles him.
Franklin also says it should not be difficult to determine whose bullet hit Gaines' 5-year-old son. He says he led a team that, in a couple of days, accounted for every shot fired during a prison riot in Hagerstown in the mid-'80s: many corrections officers firing many rounds of buckshot from 12-gauge guns on three tiers of a state prison.
"You know where your officer fired from," he says. "You know where she fired from. If the boy was hit, you will have blood evidence."
The blood, which typically splatters, will reveal which direction the shot came from, he says.
Gaines' son is currently recovering at Johns Hopkins Hospital after sustaining an injury in his left cheek, police say. Yesterday, a video of him describing the incident to his aunt was released and spread across the internet.
In the video, the son has a bandage on his arm and his cheek. He says that when the police kicked the door in, he hid in the closet. Right before Gaines was shot, her son says, the police asked Gaines to back up in response to Gaines asking them to "back off." The son says "and then they started shooting and I went in the couch and then the police just took me, and she died—the end."
He also claims that it was the police that "hurt [his] arm."