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NAACP Legal Defense Fund seeks independent review of Baltimore County Police Department after Korryn Gaines' death

The NAACP Legal Defense Fund asked Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz on Tuesday to launch an independent review of the Police Department's policies, saying the shooting death of Korryn Gaines by an officer raises questions about the agency.

In a letter to Kamenetz, the defense fund's president, Sherrilyn A. Ifill, said Gaines' death Aug. 1 and other incidents involving the department's use of force "demand your full attention in order to build trust and public confidence in the police department."

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"To date, we have heard no substantive public statement from your office regarding this matter," Ifill wrote to Kamenetz.

She also asked the county executive to meet with community groups to discuss the possibility of a permanent independent investigative team that would review police shootings.

Gaines, 23, was shot and killed by a county tactical officer after a standoff at her Randallstown apartment. Her 5-year-old son, Kodi, also was injured.

A Kamenetz spokeswoman, Ellen Kobler, said in an email to The Baltimore Sun that he has directed Police Chief Jim Johnson to begin "a study of practices and procedures in barricade situations."

She said the Police Department gave the Legal Defense Fund documents the organization requested.

"We recognize the need to maintain public confidence and transparency throughout this process," she said.

The letter from the civil rights group came as members of Gaines' family prepared meet Wednesday with county State's Attorney Scott D. Shellenberger to learn the findings of the criminal investigation into the shooting, according to lawyers for the family. Shellenberger's office reviewed the case to determine whether any criminal charges will be filed against the officer.

J. Wyndal Gordon, an attorney representing Gaines' estate, said the family's lawyers do not expect any criminal charges to be filed.

Shellenberger declined to comment Tuesday, saying he wants to meet with the family before making any public statements.

In the letter sent to Kamenetz, the Legal Defense Fund asked for a review of several Police Department policies — including those on use of force, the execution of arrest warrants and the deployment of crisis negotiators.

The group also requested information on the department's body camera program, and "the substance and regularity of de-escalation training" provided to officers.

Police have identified the officer who killed Gaines as Officer 1st Class Ruby; under department policy, they released only his last name.

They say that Gaines was armed with a shotgun and that Ruby shot at her when she pointed the weapon at him and threatened to kill him. When Gaines fired back, Ruby shot again, according to police.

Officers initially went to the apartment to serve arrest warrants on Gaines and her fiance. Authorities said Gaines had failed to appear in court for charges stemming from a March traffic stop.

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Gaines' relatives filed a wrongful-death lawsuit against Ruby and the county last week, alleging the officer shot Gaines "out of his own personal frustration rather than any true fear of a threat to him or others."

Police spokeswoman Elise Armacost said an internal investigation of the shooting is continuing. Ruby is assigned to administrative duties, she said.

County officials have declined to comment on the lawsuit.

Baltimore Sun reporter Pamela Wood contributed to this article.

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