AUSTIN, TX – A Texas police officer has been charged with first-degree murder in the shooting death of Michael Ramos in Austin last year. The Travis County District Attorney’s Officer announce the charge Thursday morning.
A murder warrant was issued Wednesday for the arrest of the Austin police officer who shot and killed Michael Ramos last year, according to the Travis County Sheriff’s Office. https://t.co/8Oots01Ne3
— Texas Tribune (@TexasTribune) March 11, 2021
A grand jury issued an arrest warrant Wednesday for Austin Police Officer Christopher Taylor for the death of Ramos, who was shot on April 24, 2020, when police responded to a 911 call reporting a man and woman sitting in a vehicle appearing to use narcotics.
According to audio of the 911 call released by police, the caller told police:
“It’s a gold Prius. It’s a gold Prius with a Hispanic man and a Hispanic woman. They got toilet paper in the front- toilet paper in the front dash window. And I seen (sic) him with a gun, he had a gun, too.”
🚨BREAKING🚨: An arrest warrant on a MURDER charge has been issued for Austin police officer Christopher Taylor in the death of Michael Ramos, authorities confirm. pic.twitter.com/WyqbNynxqJ
— Tony Plohetski (@tplohetski) March 11, 2021
The caller said that the male was holding the gun up to the female inside the vehicle, and that both occupants were smoking crack cocaine and “cooking meth.”
Several officers arrived at the apartment complex parking lot and contacted Ramos.
Officers determined the Prius had been reported stolen previously.
Austin Officer Christopher Taylor has been indicted for murder in the 2020 shooting death of Mike Ramos, and a warrant has been issued for his arrest. https://t.co/Ho0NteuUT3
— KIII 3 News (@kiii3news) March 12, 2021
Police said Ramos refused to follow police orders, and an officer shot him with “less-lethal” bean bag ammunition. Ramos reacted to the bean bag strike by re-entering his car.
Officers started ordering Ramos to exit the vehicle, telling him repeatedly, “Michael, don’t do it.”
He refused police pleas to stop and began to drive the vehicle forward. As Ramos drove forward, Officer Taylor fired three rounds from a patrol rifle, killing Ramos.
#BREAKING: APD officer Christopher Taylor has been indicted in connection with the April 2020 shooting death of Mike Ramos.
The Travis County Sheriff's Office says that an arrest warrant has been issued for Taylor.
READ MORE: https://t.co/gywhuuLtLx
— FOX 7 Austin (@fox7austin) March 11, 2021
Dashcam footage shows officers scrambling to get out of the way of the fleeing vehicle.
The police report stated:
“Fearing the male subject intended to use the Toyota Prius as a deadly weapon, one patrol officer fired his patrol rifle, striking the male driver.”
The shooting of 42-year-old Ramos sparked anti-police protests throughout Austin. Just weeks after Ramos’ shooting, the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis ignited nationwide protests and riots.
Texas cop charged with murder in shooting released on bond: https://t.co/AmKJJyrdvA (AP) – Authorities say a Texas police officer charged with murder in the fatal shooting last year of an unarmed Austin man was booked into jail and released on bond. An arrest warrant was issu…
— KTBB Radio (@KTBBRadio) March 12, 2021
Taylor turned himself in to authorities and was booked early Thursday. He was released on $100,000 bond about one-half hour later. Conditions placed on Taylor included that he does not possess a firearm.
District Attorney José Garza, who was elected on a platform of police accountability, commented about Taylor’s arrest Thursday:
“Today we have taken a significant step towards justice for the Ramos family and for our community. My heart continues to break for the Ramos family and we still have much work ahead of us, but we know that holding law enforcement accountable when they break the law is critical to restoring the trust of our community and to ensuring its safety.”
Protests held in Austin over Mike Ramos, George Floyd's deaths | FOX 7 Austin https://t.co/DPgcBSGmO0
— Chance Heston / Pastor Lindholm (@mzw007) June 9, 2020
Taylor’s attorneys released a statement accusing newly-elected Travis County District Attorney Jose Garza of using the case for political points. Defense Attorneys Ken Ervin and Doug O’Connell issued a joint statement saying:
“We are disappointed but sadly not surprised at this indictment,” the statement read. “As early as July of last year, then-DA candidate Jose Garza had made up his mind that Officer Taylor committed a crime and went so far as to offer an implied promise to indict him several months before being elected District Attorney or having access to any case evidence.
“We would remind Mr. Garza that his sworn duty is not to be an advocate for one party months before knowing the facts. It is to see that justice is done. Today’s indictment is not justice; it is the fulfillment of a campaign talking point and yet more evidence of anti-police bias.”
HAPPENING NOW: Protests continue in #Austin over the deaths of #GeorgeFloyd and Mike Ramos. A rally began earlier in the day at @HustonTillotson and now protesters are marching towards the #Texas capitol.
— FOX 7 Austin (@fox7austin) June 7, 2020
Taylor is on leave from the police department and has not faced a disciplinary hearing to date.
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Austin PD Chief won’t release potentially exonerating body cam footage: ‘Complete nonsense’ say officers
August 17, 2020
AUSTIN, TX – Several Austin police officers and attorneys have criticized Austin Police Department Chief, Brian Manley, for what appears to be cherry-picking when it comes to the public release of police video.
Manley, along with other Austin authorities, had previously agreed to the swift public release of videos regarding an officer-involved shooting in April. However, he reportedly will not agree to the release of videos of officer activity during anti-police protests, prior to a grand jury review.
The Austin Police Department said today their release depends on whether or not the cases will be brought to a grand jury. https://t.co/zidkixVfbW
— KXAN News (@KXAN_News) August 15, 2020
The officer-involved shooting in April occurred after officers were called to the scene of a man who a caller reported was brandishing a gun, and taking drugs with a woman in his vehicle.
The man, identified as Michael Ramos, exited the vehicle with hands raised, but then did not comply with officers’ commands, and he was shot with less-lethal rounds. Ramos then entered his vehicle and drove off, at which time APD officer Christopher Taylor fired his rifle at the vehicle, causing it to crash. Ramos later died at the hospital.
Protests soon followed, with area residents accusing APD of murder.
Protesters chant “APD are murderers” at an apartment complex on S Pleasant Valley Rd. in Southeast Austin. Police shot and killed a man in his 40s at the complex last night. pic.twitter.com/IhAsPczLrc
— Ariana Garcia 🇵🇷 (@Ariana_noGrande) April 26, 2020
At a press conference shortly after the shooting, APD Chief Manley discussed plans to release body-worn camera footage in short order.
He said that APD:
“Will seek to release those body-worn videos at our earliest opportunity throughout this investigation. Once we’ve reached the point where the impact of the video will not impact the integrity of the investigation.”
District Attorney Margaret Moore also was in favor of releasing video from the OIS quickly.
In a statement to Fox7 News, she remarked:
“Collection and preservation of evidence is critical, and every effort must be made to protect the integrity of the investigation.
“For example, we would not approve the release of certain facts before witnesses are interviewed.”
However, she went on to say:
“I will approve Chief Manley’s release of body camera videos collected by police officers, as soon as is practicable.
“In this instance, I do not see how the release of these videos would compromise the investigation or any subsequent prosecution.”
In a statement on his website, Mayor Steve Adler called for:
“A quick and complete assessment of this shooting and then an immediate sharing of all relevant information with the community.”
The APD body cam footage of the shooting was released to the public in July.
It should be noted that District Attorney Moore has stated that she will not be presenting this case to the grand jury, because she was defeated in the June Democratic primary runoff. The soonest the case might come to the grand jury would be in January 2021, after the new District Attorney takes office.
Calls for swiftness in releasing potentially exonerating body cam footage of police officers at Austin protests, however, have been noticeably absent.
Several Austin Police Department officers say videos from the protests should be released to show that 'zero crimes' were committed by law enforcement.https://t.co/CZDb4S0Fgq
— KXAN News (@KXAN_News) August 16, 2020
In June, multiple Austin residents complained that police acted inappropriately at protests. 82 complaints were forwarded to Internal Affairs.
The APD will reportedly not be releasing associated body cam videos, pending word on whether a grand jury will be convened for the matter.
KXAN reports that officers have taken issue with this decision.
The news outlet notes:
“Several Austin Police Department officers say videos from the protests should be released to show that ‘zero crimes’ were committed by law enforcement.”
The officers, including Officer Taylor, compared this decision to the previous decision to release the body cam footage of Taylor’s OIS. They called the push for release of footage of the OIS a choice that was “most politically beneficial” and not one grounded in transparency.
Attorneys Ken Ervin and Doug O’Connell, who are currently representing Officer Taylor and other officers who have been accused in protests, issued a statement calling out Chief Manley.
“Chief Manley deciding to release video of the shooting of Mike Ramos prior to grand jury review, while simultaneously claiming he cannot release video showing officers using force against rioters because there has been no grand jury review, is complete nonsense.”
The attorneys went on to say:
“The Ramos video release was never about transparency, and APD’s ‘policy’ of releasing critical incident video is a sham.
“The real policy is to do whatever is most politically beneficial for the Chief and/or District Attorney in that moment, and today’s announcement proves that.
“We know from representing Officer Taylor as well as officers involved in the riots that zero crimes were committed by any of these officers.”
It does appear to be a head-scratcher, that Austin authorities would push for release of police video in the case of an OIS not scheduled for grand jury attention, yet hold out on releasing potentially exonerating police video, while awaiting a grand jury.
But the attorneys for the officers have an answer that would remove the confusion.
“Rather than doing what is right and announcing these findings to the public, they hide behind each other and blame a stunning election defeat to avoid further public criticism.”
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