Korryn Gaines was passionate about beliefs, anticipated violent confrontation with police

Korryn Gaines lived and died on social media.

The many photos and videos that the Randallstown woman posted on Instagram and Facebook show a confident, happy young woman bursting with pride in her young children, her family and her sense of fashion.


But her social media footprint also reveals an ominous side: her anticipation of a violent confrontation with police.

In one video the 23-year-old loads a 12-gauge shotgun she called "Big Girl." In another, she voices a warning to a Baltimore County police officer during a traffic stop in March.


"You will have to kill me," she yelled at officers.

On Monday, five months after the traffic incident, police went to Gaines' apartment on Sulky Court to serve her with an arrest warrant for failing to appear in court.

Officers say she pointed a shotgun at them, told them to leave, and threatened to kill them. She remained in the apartment with her 5-year-old son.

Gaines posted video from the seven-hour standoff on the same sites where she posted smiling photos of herself and her loved ones.

Finally, police say, Gaines told officers, "If you don't leave, I'm going to kill you."

An officer fired first, police say, and Gaines fired back. The officer fired several more times, killing Gaines. Police fire also struck her son on his left cheek.

Relatives said the shooting was unnecessary and raised questions about Gaines' mental health.

Ryan Gaines, her 26-year-old brother, described his sister as a headstrong woman who would fight battles even when it was clear she couldn't win.


"She's very opinionated; she stood her ground," he said. "That's the thing about Korryn. Right or wrong, she stood her ground."

Gaines said he and his sister shared unpopular political beliefs. Whenever they witnessed injustice, he said, they felt compelled to object.

"We was passionate about what we believe in," he said.

Korryn Gaines commented regularly on police brutality. Just days before officers came to her apartment, she posted a meme that read, "If You Think Murder Is The Only Crime That Carries A Death Sentence Think Again." Underneath were pictures of people killed during routine encounters with police.

She wrote: "Could've been me, still can, but im aware [and] prepared."

Police say Gaines purchased a Mossberg 12-gauge pistol-grip shotgun last year. She posted a video to Instagram last month showing her loading the gun.


"Gotta thank my dad for teaching me how to protect myself," she wrote. And "thank myself … for teaching me who i need protection from."

Her uncle Jerome Barnett said some family members believed Gaines acquired militant beliefs that were markedly different from the Christian faith in which she had been raised.

Her mother said she did not agree with all of Gaines' beliefs but knew her daughter was passionate about her convictions.

"Her heart was in a good place," Rhanda Dormeus said. "She loved her black people, and she just wanted them to see things for what she felt it really was."

Police say a Baltimore County officer stopped Gaines' car in March because it displayed cardboard signs in place of license plates. One read "Free Traveler." The other read "Any Government official who compromises this pursuit to happiness and right to travel, will be held criminally responsible and fined, as this is a natural right and freedom."

The language is consistent with the anti-government sovereign citizen movement. Sovereign citizens reject courts, laws and law enforcement as illegitimate. The movement originated decades ago among white supremacists, but many adherents now are African-American.


Gaines recorded video of much of the stop.

The officer asked Gaines why the car didn't have tags. She asked him to identify himself, and told him he had no right to pull her over.

The officer wrote several traffic citations and told Gaines she would have to get out of the car because it would be towed.

She refused. Police pulled her from the car. She then refused to be handcuffed.

"Don't be afraid," she told her son in one clip. "You see what they do to us, right? You fight them. They are not for us. They want to kill us, and you never, ever back down from them."

Gaines had had run-ins with the courts. A destruction-of-property charge filed against her last year was dropped. She was charged last year with leaving a child unattended and received probation before judgment. A peace order that was filed against her last year was dropped.


She filed a lawsuit against a property owner in 2012 alleging that she had suffered lead poisoning when she was a toddler in a home her family rented on West Belvedere Avenue.

The lawsuit indicates that her father had worked for several years as a dispatcher for the Baltimore housing department.

The family later moved to Lorman Street in Sandtown-Winchester, just blocks from where Freddie Gray was arrested by police last year.

Gray died last year after suffering a severe spinal cord injury in police custody.

Gaines had "fair academic progress" at Gilmor Elementary School, according to a report included in the lawsuit, but struggled with "paying attention, following directions, listening and being disrespectful."

Gaines was "exposed to a sea of lead" at a young age, according to the lawsuit, and had "a history of problems with anger and impulsive behavior."


In the report, her mother said, "School was always a struggle for Korryn, and she had to try extra hard."

As a child, family members said, Gaines loved church and dressing up. She was an outgoing girl with an attitude, who loved gospel music, dancing and performing.

She was interested in cosmetology, Barnett said, and worked as a hairstylist.

Ryan Gaines said his sister would devour long books, reading them well into the night with a small light.

She worked hard and "made it" to Baltimore City College, her brother said. She graduated from the public high school in 2010.

A friend and former classmate, Sanchel Brown, called her "a really good spirit and a kind person."


"She always had a smile on her face," Brown said. "She knew a lot of people, but she wasn't a mean popular girl, she wasn't that kind of person."

Gaines attended Morgan State University for one semester, majoring in political science, but dropped out when she became pregnant.

Ryan Gaines said the family had high expectations of his sister. She initially hid the pregnancy from family members out of fear she'd disappoint them.

But Gaines proudly took on her new role as a mother. Brown said Gaines was "all about motherhood," and she admired her for it.

Barnett said Gaines "had a lot of passion for the stuff she believed in and for life."

"She could have been something great if she hadn't been cut down," he said.


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He expressed concern about how people might react to her death.

"We don't need no more racial type of wars or hatred," he said. "Korryn wasn't hateful. She didn't want to be memorialized like that.

"She was about empowerment. She was about love, uplifting and enlightening others with wisdom, not hatred."

Baltimore Sun reporters Colin Campbell and Doug Donovan contributed to this article.