A 23-year-old mother was fatally shot by police in Baltimore County, and her 5-year-old son was also injured during a shooting at the end of an hours-long standoff, authorities said. Korryn Gaines was pronounced dead at the scene Monday, police said in a press release. Her son was hit by shrapnel from a bullet in the crossfire and suffered injuries that are not life-threatening. It is not yet known whether the child was shot by agents or by Gaines, CBS Baltimore reports.
Gaines was reportedly armed with a shotgun and exchanged fire with officers after several hours of negotiations. The officers involved in the shooting have not yet been publicly identified and the investigation into the shooting is “active” and “ongoing,” police said.
Baltimore County Police Chief James Johnson said in a press conference that officers went to Gaines’ apartment at around 9 a.m Monday to serve an arrest warrant for her and 39-year-old Kareem Kiean Courtney. Courtney was wanted for assault; Gaines was wanted for failing to appear in court on charges of disorderly conduct, resisting arrest, and traffic charges, Washington Post reports. SWAT and other law enforcement officers were also called to the scene.
According to Johnson, officers knocked on the apartment door and identified themselves as police. There was no answer, so officers obtained a key to the residence from the landlord. Upon entering the apartment, authorities noticed Gaines sitting on the floor along with a child nearby. Johnson says Gaines immediately began wielding a 12-gauge shotgun around, bringing it into the ready position and pointing the gun in the direction of the officers. They immediately retreated to the hallway and called for tactical backup. At this point, Courtney tried to flee the apartment with a 1-year-old child but was eventually apprehended by police.
Police negotiators spoke with Gaines during the barricade, encouraging her to “surrender peacefully,” the statement said. However, she refused and continued to aim the weapon at police. Johnson said his officers showed “great restraint during the incident.”
“The barricade’s turning point came at about 3 p.m, when she pointed the shotgun directly at one officer visible to her through the doorway and said she was going to shoot him if officers did not leave,” a statement read.
After several hours of negotiations, an officer who was said to be “fearing for the lives of the officers” opened fire. Gaines returned fire, according to police. She was shot twice, but did not hit any of the officers. She died at the scene.
“Our officer returned three rounds of fire, striking her and killing her,” Johnson was quoted as saying.
When officers went to render aid to Gaines, they noticed that the 5-year-old boy was also struck. The boy was taken to a nearby hospital and he is expected to survive his injuries.
“We do not know at this moment in time if the child was struck by our round, her round, or shrapnel from our round, shrapnel from her round, we do not know at this moment in time,” said Johnson.
“We are of course extremely upset at an event like this,” police spokeswoman Elise Armacost said at press conference. “We do not like to be in a position of having to use lethal force, but this was a situation where our officers exercised patience for hours and hours.”
Meanwhile, Sheldon Greenberg, an expert on police protocol at Johns Hopkins University, told the Post that decisions during hostage standoffs focus on the threat posed by the person with the gun, not the age of parties in a situation.
“The fact that it’s a small child or someone elderly, from the point of view of looking at it in the aftermath, is emotional,” Greenberg said. “A hostage negotiator may use discussion of the child in a negotiation. But at the point of a police action, them having to wrestle the person down or even shoot the person, that’s after all considerations have been made.”
Gaines had no significant criminal record and those who knew her said she previously released videos claiming she was being harassed by the police.
[Photo by Ron Jenkins/Getty Images]