Lawyers for the family of Korryn Gaines, who was fatally shot by Baltimore County police in 2016, rested their case in a lawsuit against the county Thursday with emotional testimony from the father of her child.
Corey Cunningham said the son he had with Gaines, Kodi, has suffered physical and emotional damage since he was injured by a bullet when police fired on his mother following an hours-long standoff.
Kodi, now 6, is “a shell of himself,” Cunningham testified in Baltimore County Circuit Court. Where the boy was once “full of life, full of personality,” he’s now skittish, untrusting and has trouble sleeping and behaving in school, he said.
Baltimore County Police went to Gaines’ Randallstown apartment on Aug. 1, 2016 to serve warrants on her and her fiance. The fiance left with the couple’s infant child, while Gaines refused to leave the apartment, and remained there with Kodi.
A six-hour-long standoff ensued, some of which Gaines broadcast on social media before police succeeded in getting her accounts shut down.
Eventually, Officer Royce Ruby fired at Gaines multiple times, fatally injuring her. One of the bullets passed through Gaines and struck Kodi.
Cunningham said he had been taking a nap after work as a truck driver that afternoon, when a relative called to tell him she saw on TV news that there was a police incident at the complex where Gaines lived. Cunningham rushed over and learned that Gaines had died and that Kodi was in the hospital.
Kodi had surgery that night on his right arm and later had surgery to remove a bullet from his face, Cunningham said. For months, Cunningham said, he tended to the wound on his son’s face, packing it with gauze daily, and to shrapnel wounds on the boy’s arm that left him constantly itching.
Kodi hasn’t been the same since the shooting, Cunningham said.
“You could just see the light in Kodi’s eyes was gone,” he said.
Attorneys representing Cunningham, Kodi and Gaines’ other survivors have sued Ruby and the Baltimore County government, alleging that they violated Gaines’ and Kodi’s rights by using excessive force during the incident.
Ruby, who now holds the rank of corporal, has not testified, but in court Thursday lawyers read parts of a deposition that he previously gave. In the deposition, Ruby said that while peering through the doorway to Gaines’ apartment, he saw her braids and the barrel of her shotgun lifting up.
Believing that Gaines was pointing the gun at the door, Ruby said in the deposition that he feared that if she fired, she may strike other officers who were standing behind the hinged side of the door.
Though he couldn’t see Gaines, Ruby fired through a wall and struck her, according to the deposition. He entered the apartment and fired three more times when he saw she still had the gun.
After the jury was dismissed for the day, attorneys representing Ruby and the county government asked Judge Mickey Norman to rule on the lawsuit in their favor.
James S. Ruckle Jr., an assistant county attorney, said Ruby was reasonable to believe that he and the other officers might be in imminent danger of injury or death from Gaines.
And even if Ruby might have made a mistake, Ruckle said, he is protected by the legal concept of “qualified immunity” because he was acting within his authority as a police officer. There’s been no evidence that Royce acted with any malice or ill will toward Gaines or Kodi, he said.
The Gaines team’s lawyers disagreed, telling the judge that it’s questionable whether Ruby really feared for his safety or for the other officers, and that the jury should be allowed to decide.
Norman granted judgment in favor of the county on one count of the lawsuit alleging negligence on the part of Ruby and the county. The judge said he will address the other elements of the lawsuit on Friday morning, but he also indicated the trial would continue, perhaps through Tuesday.