Citing "an unprecedented number of threats" against its officers, the Baltimore County Police Department said Thursday it would not release the name of the officer who shot Korryn Gaines to death.
Citing "an unprecedented number of threats" against its officers, the Baltimore County Police Department said Thursday that it would not release the name of the officer who shot Korryn Gaines to death.
Chief James Johnson made the decision after the department received "threats and actions against specific officers and officials," officials said.
They also cited Gaines' "anti-government sentiment" and the killings of police officers in Dallas and Baton Rouge, La.
"We constantly balance the need for transparency with the need to protect investigations and safety," Johnson said in a statement. "This is a situation where I feel we must err on the side of safety."
Police went to Gaines' Randallstown home Monday morning to serve a warrant. They say Gaines refused to allow officers in. Nearly seven hours into the standoff, police say, officers and Gaines exchanged fire. Gaines, 23, was shot to death. Her 5-year-old son was wounded.
Police said Thursday that they were still investigating the shooting, including whether Gaines or a police officer shot her son.
The Baltimore County councilman who represents Randallstown said the police response should be reviewed.
Councilman Julian Jones, a Woodstock Democrat, said police were following training, but the incident should raise broader questions about how they respond in such confrontations.
"Maybe it would have been better to back away from the situation and say, 'Listen: You have to come out sooner or later,'" Jones said. "But I don't think police are built that way. And that's why we have to examine what is the best way to go."
Several of Gaines' relatives have asked whether police could have done more to prevent her death.
"I do feel like [police] didn't want to hurt her," Rhonda Dormeus, her mother, said this week. "But I don't feel like they exhausted all the means of negotiation."
Police spokeswoman Elise Armacost said every serious use of force is reviewed as an opportunity to examine both the incident itself and general practices "to make sure we are handling these things in the best possible way."
She said the shooting would be subject to the same reviews as other shootings that involve police, including an investigation by the homicide unit, an administrative review and a review by the state's attorney's office.
"We've been working nonstop to put the entire thing together," she said. "It's a very complicated incident."
Johnson has defended the department's actions. He said the officers spent hours pleading with Gaines to surrender peacefully and didn't fire until Gaines pointed a shotgun at them and threatened to kill them.
"We have an individual who committed a first-degree assault on a police officer, pointing a shotgun at them," he said this week. "We have a warrant for her arrest. For hours we pleaded with her to end this peacefully. We were concerned about the safety of the child."
Jones said police did not go to Gaines' apartment to apprehend a violent suspect, but to serve warrants for two minor offenses. "These are things that should not result in somebody's death," he said. "And I'm OK with examining police policies, because maybe there is a better way."
Jones added that Gaines' actions shouldn't be overlooked.
"I'm OK with examining the police officers' actions, but we can't take away from her responsibility — which is, any person, you can't point a gun at the police," he said.
Dormeus said the department should have allowed family members to speak to Gaines during the negotiations to help de-escalate the standoff.
Johnson said police remained at the house because they were concerned about the welfare of the child.
"If they were so concerned about the child in the house, why did they shoot?" Barnett asked. "That doesn't even make sense. It doesn't add up."
Johnson said officers didn't fire until Gaines brought her shotgun up to a "ready position" and said, "If you don't leave, I'm going to kill you."
Officers from the county's warrant service unit went to Gaines' apartment on Sulky Court to serve arrest warrants on Gaines and her boyfriend, Kareem Courtney.
Gaines had a bench warrant for failure to appear in court after a traffic stop in March. Courtney, 39, was charged with second-degree assault in connection with an alleged altercation with Gaines on June 28.
Gaines recorded a video of her March 10 traffic stop. It shows Gaines saying police would have to "murder" her to get her out of the vehicle.
She was charged with resisting arrest, disorderly conduct, failure to obey law enforcement, and several traffic-related offenses.
Johnson said officers knocked on her door about 9:20 a.m. Monday, announced their presence, and tried to get Gaines and Courtney to answer the front door.
After 10 minutes, Johnson said, officers got a key from apartment management, opened the door and saw Gaines sitting on the floor.
One officer "kicked the door forcing the door open," police wrote in court documents, and another entered the apartment and saw her with a shotgun. She told the officer to leave, police said. The officers retreated and called for tactical officers and other support.
Police said Gaines drew her weapon and pointed it at officers repeatedly throughout the day.
About 4 p.m., Johnson said, she raised the shotgun and threatened officers. An officer fired one round, but it's unclear whether it struck her. She then fired several rounds at police, Johnson said, but no officer was struck. An officer then fired three rounds, killing her.