AUSTIN, Texas (CNN) — A grand jury has indicted an Austin police officer on a first-degree murder charge in the fatal shooting of 42-year-old Michael Brent Ramos last April, Travis County District Attorney José Garza said in a statement released Thursday.
The case against Austin Police Department Officer Christopher Taylor is the first known indictment of a city police officer for a use-of-force incident, Garza said in a statement.READ MORE: Now Hiring: Food Distributor Sysco Looking To Fill Dozens Of Jobs In North Texas
The same grand jury declined to indict another officer for aggravated assault by a public servant for discharging a bean bag round before the fatal shooting, according to Garza. CNN has reached out to the officer’s attorney for comment.
Ramos was fatally shot on April 24, 2020, after police responded to a 911 call about a man allegedly doing drugs in a car with a gun, Police Chief Brian Manley said at the time.
The death led to street protests against police brutality.
The car Ramos was in matched the description of a car that was involved in an incident with police, Manley said.
Ramos got out of the car and did not follow police commands, according to Manley. After one officer fired a less lethal bean bag round, Ramos, allegedly got back in the car and started to drive off, the police chief said. Another officer then fatally shot Ramos, Manley said.
The police chief later said no firearm was found in or around Ramos’s car when a search warrant was executed two days after the shooting, the Austin American-Statesman reported last year.
“Today we have taken a significant step towards justice for the Ramos family and for our community,” Garza said in a statement.
“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.”
Ramos’s mother, Brenda, said of the indictment Thursday: “I feel good but there’s still a long ways to go. It’s just a start.”
“Mike was my everything,” she told reporters.
“Sometimes I feel so broken and alone, but I made a promise to myself and to my son that I would do everything I can to stop my nightmare from happening to another family … My son was unarmed. The video plays over and over in my head when I try to sleep. And the gunshots haunt me,” she said.
Austin Police Association President Ken Casaday said in a statement that the union and its members “strongly stand” behind Taylor.
“Garza won election in November after running a campaign on the promise to prosecute officers and to get justice for the Ramos Family — promises that he made without ever seeing evidence in this case,” the statement said. “We believe there is overwhelming evidence that shows Officer Taylor’s use of deadly force to protect himself and his fellow officers was within the law.”READ MORE: What To Do If You Received Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 Vaccine
Casaday said the case “should have never resulted in an indictment.”
“It was a political promise kept rather than a decision based on sound legal (judgment),” he added. “We are profoundly disappointed with the District Attorney’s actions in this case which undermines the safety of our officers and the community. When all the video evidence and eyewitness testimony comes out in court, we are confident that a jury will agree that the force used in this case was legally justified as it was used to protect the lives of Officer Taylor and his fellow officers.”
Garza, in a second statement Thursday, said the grand jurors “heard the evidence and law and decided that Mr. Taylor should be charged with murder.”
“It is disappointing but not surprising that Mr. Casaday thinks he knows better than members of our community in the grand jury about what should and should not be prosecuted,” Garza said. “When the views of the police union trump the views of the community and the law, the community loses trust in law enforcement and our system of justice. On the other hand, when law enforcement is held accountable when they break the law, our community can see that no one is above the law — and that makes our community more safe.”
The Austin Police Department said in a brief statement: “APD respects the role the Grand Jury holds in the criminal justice process and will continue to cooperate with the District Attorney’s Office on this case as needed while it proceeds through the trial process.”
Taylor is on unpaid administrative leave, according to the department.
Taylor’s attorneys, Ken Ervin and Doug O’Connell, said they were “disappointed but sadly not surprised” at the indictment.
“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,” a statement from the attorneys said.
The attorneys added: “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.
Bail for Taylor was set at $100,000, according to Garza. Additionally, a judge set conditions on Taylor including “no employment with access to, or possession of, a firearm, no possession of personal firearms, and to surrender duty firearm,” Garza said.
Taylor is out on bond, according to Garza and Casaday.
“A Travis County grand jury has made clear today … that if law enforcement committed crime, if they engage in this conduct, they will be held accountable,” Garza told reporters. “That is what our community expects.”
At the time of the fatal shooting, cell phone video of the incident circulated on social media and members of the community called for the release of police body camera footage.MORE NEWS: Texas Native Robert Santos Picked To Lead US Census Bureau
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