Police Race

We Must #SayHerName: Korryn Gaines

Korryn Gaines, a 23-year-old African American woman, was shot and killed in her home by Baltimore County police officers on Monday afternoon. Her five-year-old son was also shot and injured. Gaines is the ninth black woman to be shot and killed by police this year, according to data kept by the Washington Post.

Police arrived at Gaines’ residence on Monday morning to serve warrants to Gaines and a man who also resided there. The man, who was not apprehended at the scene, was wanted on charges of assault. Gaines’ arrest warrant was for failing to appear in court for a traffic violation.

When police forcibly entered her home wearing SWAT gear, Gaines was sitting on the floor holding her five-year-old son. According to police reports, she also had a gun and allegedly told police, “”If you don’t leave, I’m going to kill you.”  A stand-off ensued, during which time Gaines videoed part of the encounter. Then, around three o’clock, a police officer opened fire on Gaines, at which point she fired her shotgun for the first time, hitting no one. The three officers then fired at Gaines, hitting her multiple times and killing her at the scene.

It is unclear yet if the incident was captured by body cameras or if the officers were wearing them, despite the fact that the Baltimore police department launched a program to guarantee that officers wear body cameras to ensure police accountability at the beginning of May.

Gaines, herself, posted the video online, creating at least a partial record of what occurred. Facebook, however, deactivated Gaines’ account at the request of the police, and Instagram has not allowed the videos on its site. According to news reports, Gaines’ son can be heard on one of the videos saying that police “are trying to kill us.”

Members of the public, including Gaines’ family, have questioned whether it was necessary for police to use lethal force. “We see hundreds of videos where these people are taken into custody without harm. What was so different in this situation? If they truly felt like something was wrong with her, then address her accordingly,” Gaines’ aunt, Dawn McGee, told a local news station.

This latest shooting highlights the need to address and bring attention to police violence against black women and ensure that their voices are not lost in the fight to end police brutality against communities of color in the United States.

“Although black women are routinely killed, raped, and beaten by the police, their experiences are rarely foregrounded in popular understanding of police brutality,” explains Kimberlé Crenshaw, director of Colombia Law School’s Center for Intersectionality and Social Policy Studies and Director of the African American Policy Forum (AAFP). “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.”

AAFP recently published a report, titled “Say Her Name: Resisting Police Brutality Against Black Women,” which attempts to create public awareness about the violence that black women such as Korryn Gaines face at the hands of police.