Brenda Ramos Demands Action in Son’s Killing
Officer neither charged nor disciplined in police shooting
The Austin Police Department has completed its part of the criminal investigation into the fatal shooting of Michael Ramos on April 24, and now awaits documentation from the Travis County medical examiner and the Texas Rangers, who were asked to assist with the investigation. According to an email from the city's Law Department obtained by the Chronicle, the Special Investigations Unit completed its work "several weeks ago," but Christopher Taylor, the officer who killed Ramos, has not been charged with a crime, disciplined, or cleared in the case.
Brenda Ramos, Michael's mother, is losing her patience. As we went to press on Wednesday, Oct. 14, Ramos told reporters that she is fed up with inaction from the top law enforcement officials in Austin and Travis County. Since April, when her son was shot with a lead-pellet round while his hands were in the air and then shot fatally as he slowly fled in his vehicle, Ramos has called for Taylor to be charged, arrested, and fired.
"Maybe Chief Manley disagrees with the thousands of people who marched in the streets this summer demanding justice for my son," Ramos said. "Maybe [Manley] believes that my son deserves to be shot like that, but he should have the courage to tell the community that."
Eventually, the evidence collected by SIU detectives will be presented to a grand jury that will determine if Taylor is charged with a crime. That process is on hold, as D.A. Margaret Moore announced in July that she would delay the presentation of two police homicide cases (Ramos and Javier Ambler) until the next elected D.A. takes office, most likely Democratic nominee José Garza. Meanwhile, APD Chief Brian Manley has declined to issue any disciplinary action against Taylor for killing Ramos (or for his role in the prior police shooting of Mauris DeSilva last year). In June, Moore asked Manley to hold off until the criminal process concludes, because she feared his actions could "prejudice" the case.
Now, Council Member Greg Casar says, that excuse no longer works. "I previously asked the police chief why there was a delay in this case, when APD has in fact acted quickly to make disciplinary decisions in other cases," Casar told the Chronicle. "The chief stated he was delaying at the request of the D.A." Garza has indicated he has no such objections, so Casar says, "The chief should act transparently and justly, without further delay." An APD spokesperson told us that Manley has not changed his position.
In many cases, past police chiefs have also opted to wait for pending criminal proceedings to conclude before taking administrative action against officers accused of misconduct. But former Chief Art Acevedo fired Officer Geoffrey Freeman in March 2016, just one month after Freeman shot and killed David Joseph. That move caused a rift between Acevedo, his rank-and-file officers, and the Austin Police Association that represents them. In May 2016, a grand jury acquitted Freeman, vindicating the union's position, which could be a factor in Manley's consideration now. (The APD spokesperson told us "Every situation is unique with different circumstances and nuances, so we are unable to compare cases.")
Others have posited potential evidence not yet made public that could portray Taylor's actions as justified in the Ramos killing – if Manley knew that to be the case, it would make sense for him to hold off on disciplining the officer. "We should not pass judgment on Taylor until we have seen 100% of the video that's out there, and other evidence," APA President Ken Casaday told us. "Everyone in this country is allowed due process."
When asked about unreleased video footage of the Ramos killing, Office of Police Oversight Director Farah Muscadin said she couldn't comment on a pending investigation, but, "I can tell you that APD has posted all the videos related to this incident on their critical incident briefing website."