Three officers with the Baltimore County police arrived at Korryn Gaines’s apartment around 9:20 a.m. on Monday to serve warrants to her as well as a man who also resided there.
The man was wanted on an assault charge, while Gaines, 23, had an arrest warrant for failing to appear in court after a traffic violation in March.
According to police, no one responded to 10 minutes of door knocking, even though they could hear several people inside. When officers obtained a key to the apartment, they found Gaines sitting on the floor — her 5-year-old son was wrapped in one of her arms. In her other hand was a shotgun.
Around 3 p.m., after several hours of negotiation, police say Gaines raised the gun at officers and told them that she would kill them if they did not leave. The officers opened fire.
“Perceiving not only her actions, but the words she used, we discharged one round at her, in turn she fired several rounds back at us,” Police Chief Jim Johnson said during a news conference on Monday night. “We fired again at her, striking and killing her. Tragically in this circumstance, the child that was also in the dwelling was struck by a round.”
The man being sought fled the home with a 1-year-old child, but was later taken into custody, police said.
According to Johnson, it is unclear if there is any body camera footage of the incident (the department’s body camera program is just several weeks old).
The shooting of Gaines and her son — who police say had non-life-threatening injuries — quickly prompted national outrage among activists who have protested police killings in recent years.
The recent shootings of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, followed by targeted slayings of police officers in Dallas and Baton Rouge, renewed the national discussion of police use of force and community distrust that has for two years been propelled by the national Movement for Black Lives (often referred to as the Black Lives Matter movement).
Protests have also been organized under the “Say Her Name” banner, a subsidiary that seeks to bring attention to black women who have been killed by police, who activists say are less likely to receive the national media attention of black men who have been killed.
“Although Black women are routinely killed, raped, and beaten by the police, their experiences are rarely foregrounded in popular understandings of police brutality,” said Kimberlé Crenshaw, director of Columbia Law School’s Center for Intersectionality and Social Policy Studies, in her “Say Her Name” report on black women killed by the police issued last year. “Yet, inclusion of Black women’s experiences in social movements, media narratives, and policy demands around policing and police brutality is critical to effectively combating racialized state violence for Black communities and other communities of color.”
Gaines is the ninth black woman shot and killed by police so far in 2016, according to a Washington Post database tracking fatal police shootings — a number set to soon surpass 2015, when a total of 10 black women were shot and killed by police.
Even though all but two of the women were armed, family members, activists and videos have raised questions in nearly all of the cases about whether the women were attacking officers when they were killed. Still, before Gaines, none of the black women killed by police this year had gained sustained national attention.
Janet Wilson was the first black woman killed by police this year, when she was shot and killed by officers in Dearborn, Mich., as she drove away from a popular shopping center.
Wilson’s sister recalls her as goofy, having an insatiable appetite — the Olive Garden was her favorite — and as the sibling prone to standing for hours in the mirror, lip-syncing the words to R&B divas, most often Mariah Carey and Brandy.
“She was always laughing and playing around,” said Lori Wilson, Janet’s sister. “She just enjoyed living.”
She had been distraught recently. About a year before she was killed Wilson’s boyfriend died of kidney disease. A few months after that, Wilson’s father passed away.
Wilson didn’t like to discuss the deaths much, but her family knew they were still weighing heavily on her. The morning of her death, she called an aunt from the parking lot of a church she had been attending — she had arrived too early for Bible study and had some free time and wanted to catch up. After worshiping, Wilson decided to go to nearby Fairlane Mall.
Police have released little information about what transpired at the mall. Vince Colella , an attorney for the Wilson family, says that he thinks Wilson got into an argument with a sunglasses vendor, and was escorted out of the mall by security.
“That’s where it gets murky,” Colella said.
Wilson walked to her car and drove out of the parking lot and onto a service road. There, Dearborn police officers initiated a traffic stop. Police have alleged that Wilson drove at police as they approached her vehicle, prompting them to open fire. Wilson’s family questions that account.
Colella said the family has yet to be provided with dash camera footage, which they believe will show the entirety of the shooting.
“An officer shot her through her front windshield and side window, killing her,” Colella said. “This family wants justice. The officer was not in danger. She was unarmed at the time, and she did not commit any crime.”
Wilson is an outlier among the black women shot and killed by police this year in that she was unarmed. In seven of the other eight cases, the woman killed was armed, and in most of them, she was distraught. (The other unarmed black woman killed this year was Jessica Williams, who was shot and killed in San Francisco.)
The most clearly-captured shooting is that of Laronda Sweatt, 40, who was shot and killed in April as she approached an officer with an ax.
Police said they were serving Sweatt with eviction papers when she injured one deputy and then charged at a responding officer with an ax. Video of the shooting released the day after the shooting shows a Gallatin police officer telling Sweatt to stop approaching, and backing up before he shot and killed the woman.
“She was not a person who was out there to attack police officers,” Sweatt’s daughter Alainna told the Tennessean after the video was released. “She was provoked.”
In another April incident, which appears to have been a “suicide by cop,” Kisha Arrone, 35, was shot and killed by officers in Dayton, Ohio. Officers were responding to a call from Arrone’s partner, in which the woman claimed Arrone had held a gun to her head. Witnesses told police that Arrone and her partner had gotten into a violent confrontation, during which Arrone threatened to kill herself and fired her weapon.
When police arrived, Arrone fled in a blue and silver pickup, but the truck eventually stopped after officers deployed spike strips. Initially she sat in the truck with the gun to her head, but then she exited the vehicle with the gun in her hand.
Arrone, according to police, then fired one shot in the air, prompting three officers to open fire. The officers shot 20 times, striking Arrone 10 times and killing her. None of the officers were charged.
“The officers involved in this incident were reacting to an imminent risk of serious physical harm or death,” Dayton Police Chief Richard Biehl toldreporters in April.
In the other five shootings, including Gaines’s death, the black woman killed was armed with a firearm, but it remains unclear if they attacked officers before they were shot and killed.
In February, police in Inglewood, Calif., shot and killed Kisha Michael, 31, who they say was sitting in a car with a man when officers approached. Police say that Michael had a gun that she raised at officers, prompting them to open fire — killing both Michael and the man, 32-year-old Marquintan Sandlin. The mayor has said that Michael and the man in the car were likely asleep when officers first approached them, and no other details have been released.
The following month India Beaty, 25, was shot and killed in Norfolk after she allegedly pulled a replica gun on a man who she was arguing with. Officers, who were in the area on an unrelated assignment, ran toward the altercation and ended up shooting and killing Beaty, who they say made a “threatening motion.” Police in Orlando say that Deresha Armstrong, 26, got into a shootout with a store owner after an attempted burglary and then pointed a gun at a responding officer in May.
“The police act more like gang members than the gangs themselves,” said Casundra Ridgeway, whose daughter Sahlah was shot and killed by police in February.
On Feb. 12, police in Syracuse, N.Y., responded to about suspected drug dealing in an apartment. When they arrived, police said they saw Sahlah Ridgeway, 32, holding a sawed-off shotgun. Then, police said, she ran and refused to drop the weapon.
On the night of her daughters death, Casundra Ridgeway got a call from a friend. Word was spreading that Sahlah had been shot. The mother rushed to the scene.
“They wouldn’t give me any information,” Casundra Ridgeway said of the day her daughter was killed. “I didn’t even know my child was dead until someone posted it on the Internet.”
Local officials released a blurry surveillance video that shows the shooting. In the video, Ridgeway can be seen running out of an apartment complex and being chased by two officers. The district attorney said the video shows her pivoting toward officers with the shotgun in her hand before one of them opened fire.
A grand jury cleared the officer involved. Police have said they have no evidence that Ridgeway was involved in selling drugs or was directly linked to the complaint.
Her mother remembers her as an aspiring rap artist and the family comedian who would do anything to make her mother smile. When she was down, Casundra Ridgeway recalls, her daughter would jokingly flirt with her — complimenting her smile or her hair until she started laughing.
“The officers should be charged, I don’t understand what gives them the right to do what they did,” Casundra Ridgeway said. “There was no need for my daughter to be killed.”