A civil trial is set to begin next week in the fatal police shooting of Korryn Gaines, the young black mother of two who was killed in her Baltimore residence with her son just feet away.
The August 2016 shooting was a national headline story, largely due to the fact that Gaines partially broadcasted her interaction with police on Facebook.
Attorneys for the family of Gaines is suing Baltimore County and county officers for wrongful death and excessive force. According to the Baltimore Sun, the family argues that Gaines’ constitutional right to free speech was violated when police asked Facebook to deactivate her account.
A death on social media display
Gaines, 23, posted on Facebook videos of her and son, Kodi, during a standoff with police. Officers reportedly entered her home to serve warrants on her and her boyfriend Kareem Kiean Courtney.
Gaines, however, refused to come out of her residence. Her family says she feared for her life. This is when Gaines began recording and posting videos on Facebook and other social media.
Officer Royce Ruby Jr., who was outside the apartment at the time of the encounter, fired at Gaines through the kitchen wall, killing her. Lawyers for the county argue that Ruby was justified in shooting Gaines because police allegedly saw her raise her shotgun to the firing position.
Gaines’ son, who was 5 at the time, was also struck two times during the home shooting.
Initially, Baltimore county police claimed that Gaines had returned fire, but there was some dispute about that account, especially because Gaines had started to livestream the entire incident on Facebook.
Police asked Facebook to deactivate her account and take down the videos of what happened. They claimed that they had done so because her followers were encouraging her not to comply with police.
In court documents Gaines’ family claimed that “by blocking her live streaming, the Baltimore County Police Department not only suppressed her speech under the Maryland Constitution but also stopped the only independent visual video record of what was taking place before Officer Ruby killed her.”
Ramone Coleman, a neighbor and eyewitness to the events that took place in August, gives an account that contradicts the police version of events. According to Coleman, Gaines told officers, “If you put your guns down and back up from my apartment, I will come out,” and asked to see the warrant they were serving, though she was denied the request.
Coleman also said that the officers ignored family members who “desperately offered and pleaded to help deescalate the situation.”
The documents state that not only was Gaines’ death unconstitutional but also that officers entered her home without “a reasonable belief that Korryn was home” and without a search warrant.