Korryn Gaines' cousin Creo Brady speaks out after her funeral on Thursday. (Algerina Perna / Baltimore Sun)
Mourners filled the Wylie Funeral Home chapel in West Baltimore on Thursday to say their goodbyes to Korryn Gaines, the 23-year-old who was killed last week in an exchange of gunfire with Baltimore County police.
Her 5-year-old son, Kodi, was struck in the cheek by a tactical officer's bullet during the shooting at Gaines' Randallstown apartment. On Thursday, another mourner lifted him to see inside his mother's casket. He wore a white tuxedo and a small bandage on his cheek.
"Look how strong he is," one woman whispered.
Gaines' mother, Rhanda Dormeus, wept as a soft piano rendition of Adele's "Hello" played. Three young men wearing T-shirts with Gaines' picture paused by the casket, tears in their eyes.
A projector flashed smiling photos from her Facebook and Instagram accounts, while others showed Gaines as a young child, including one of her holding a tall gold trophy.
Aysha M. Williams, who said she had known Gaines since they attended Gilmor Daycare Center together, called her a "beautiful person with an infectious laugh."
"You could hear it a mile away," Williams said after the service. She said that Gaines had been always been very mature, at even a young age. She recalled that Gaines was often content to read a book by herself.
Williams said she and Gaines went on to attend Morgan State University together. She recalled that when she was a contestant in a beauty pageant, Gaines did her makeup for her. When Williams did not win the contest and was upset, Gaines canceled plans and stayed with her, Williams said.
"She really believed in what she felt was right," Williams said.
Officers went to Gaines' apartment Aug. 1 to serve arrest warrants on Gaines and her boyfriend. Police said Gaines pointed a gun at officers through the door. Officers later kicked in the door and Gaines told them to leave, prompting an hours-long standoff.
County police said an officer fired first at Gaines when she pointed her gun in a ready position and threatened to kill the officer. Gaines returned fire but no officers were injured. Her death received national attention as the latest example of alleged excessive force by law enforcement.
Police have declined to name the officer who shot Gaines, citing threats against police.
The Rev. Jamal Bryant, pastor of the Empowerment Temple, spoke briefly at the beginning of the service, calling Gaines' funeral "unnecessary" and describing her death as a murder.
The Rev. Westley West of Faith Empowered Ministries gave a sermon, highlighting other cases of alleged police brutality against African-Americans, including Sandra Bland, who was found hanged in her Texas jail cell after she was arrested during a traffic stop.
"It's too much," West repeated after mentioning names including Freddie Gray, who suffered a spinal cord injury in police custody and died last year.
West, who participated in protests after Gray's death, said Gaines stood up against what she said was injustice by police against blacks. He spoke of her arrest in Baltimore County in March, which she posted to social media, along with videos on the day of her death. Police went to her house to serve a failure to appear for a bench warrant from the March 10 traffic stop.