On Monday afternoon, after an encounter turned tragic, Baltimore Police fatally shot Korryn Gaines, making her the ninth black woman to be shot dead by police in 2016 alone. Police were reportedly attempting to serve an arrest warrant to the 23-year-old mother at her apartment in Baltimore, Maryland, when she and the officers engaged in an hours-long standoff which left her dead and her five-year-old son injured. The shooting of Gaines has sparked outrage among activist communities, who see the tragic event as yet another overstep of police force in a year that has already been marked by multiple, high-profile fatal shootings of black individuals.
Officers knocked on Gaines' apartment door for 10 minutes before retrieving a key from the woman's landlord, despite being able to hear both Gaines and a man who lived with her inside the residence, Baltimore County Police Chief James Johnson told reporters during a press conference. Johnson said that the police were attempting to serve both Gaines and her roommate with an arrest record. Gaines was reportedly wanted for failing to appear in court after a traffic violation earlier this year, and the man was wanted on a separate assault charge, The Washington Post reported and Johnson confirmed.
During the press conference, Johnson said that when officers gained entry into Gaines' apartment, they allegedly found her sitting on the floor, with her five-year-old son in one arm and a shotgun in the other. After hours of unsuccessful negotiation, Johnson said, the authorities claimed that Gaines raised her gun at them, saying that she would shoot them if they didn't leave her home. That is when they fired their weapons at her, Johnson said, and after Gaines allegedly fired a round back at the officers, they ultimately struck and killed her. The child was also struck during the exchange, but is expected to make a full recovery, Johnson said.
Activists fear that the police involved in this tragedy may ultimately be the only ones who are able to share their side of the story. Currently, Johnson said he is uncertain if body camera footage exists, as the department's body camera program is only a few weeks old. Victims of police brutality have recently relied on both body cameras and bystander-shot footage to counteract the stories brought forth by authorities. Such footage is being used in the investigations of the shootings of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, two black men killed by police last month.
Police Spokeswoman Elise Armacost said of the incident: "We are of course extremely upset at an event like this. 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."
Though details are still emerging, Gaines' death represents a disturbing trend of police violence inflicted upon communities of color, and activists are likewise pointing to a systemic failure within the police force, which seems to leave less room for deescalation and more for fatal shootings.