Photo by Austin Police Department
Tuesday, July 28, 2020 by Audrey McGlinchy

Austin police release video footage showing fatal shooting of Mike Ramos

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Video footage released Monday of the shooting of Mike Ramos shows the 42-year-old pleading with Austin police officers to put their guns down, telling them he doesn’t have a weapon and that they are scaring him.

APD Officer Christopher Taylor shot and killed Ramos, who was Black and Hispanic, in late April.

“The goal of this video release is to provide an informative and timely briefing on this critical incident, while maintaining the integrity of the case,” Police Chief Brian Manley wrote in a memo Monday to the mayor and Council members. “The Austin Police Department remains committed to transparency and will continue our work in building trust with the community we serve through information sharing.”

Protesters in Austin have invoked Ramos’ name, as well as the names of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, during demonstrations against police violence and systemic racism, and during Council meetings where people have demanded the city significantly cut police funding.

Under a new policy adopted by police in May, the department will release video and audio footage of serious injuries or killings within 60 days of an incident. That means video of the Ramos shooting should have been released in late June.

But City Manager Spencer Cronk prevented the video from going public, saying APD did not follow procedure. According to the policy, the police department is required to consult the Office of Police Oversight during production of a video. The department did not do that before it prepared to release the video in June.

Manley told KUT earlier this month that was an “oversight.”

The policy also allows “relevant parties” to view a video before it is released publicly. The city said Ramos’ family had been shown the video before its release was delayed.

“The city manager has directed this video be withheld from public release until the Office of Police Oversight has had an opportunity to fully review the video and ensure that all requirements of the policy are appropriately met,” the city said in a statement at the time.

The 16-minute video pieces together audio from a 911 call and footage from police dashboard and body cameras. A caller tells the 911 dispatcher that a man and woman are doing drugs in the apartment complex parking lot and she believes the man has a gun.

Footage from the cameras shows Ramos complying with requests to get out of the car and to lift his shirt and put his hands up.

An officer tells him to walk toward police, who are standing next to their cars, which are acting as a barricade to prevent his exit from the parking lot.

“You’re going to get impacted if you don’t listen,” an officer tells Ramos.

“Don’t shoot, yo!” Ramos shouts, staying near the car. “I ain’t got no f—— gun, dog.” APD confirmed in May that it did not find a gun in or near the car Ramos was in when police killed him.

“Man, you all scared the f— out of me,” he says.

Officer Mitchell Pieper then shoots Ramos with a lead pellet-filled bag, which police consider a “less lethal” option. Austin police shot these bags at protesters during the first weekend of demonstrations in May, in some cases causing serious injury.

Ramos gets back in the car and police yell at him to turn off the ignition.

“Michael, don’t do it!” an officer shouts.

Ramos drives forward out of a parking spot before turning right, away from officers. Officer Taylor then shoots at the car three times, killing Ramos.

Lawyers for Ramos’ family first watched the video Friday.

“The first thing that stuck out to me is what I did not see and that was any justification for the shooting. That is glaringly absent from the video,” Scott Hendler, a lawyer representing Ramos’ mother, said. “What’s clear is that there’s nothing Mike Ramos did to justify Officer Taylor opening fire and killing him.”

APD has argued that Ramos intended to use his car as a weapon; department policy allows officers to shoot at a moving vehicle when they think it may be used to hurt other people or themselves.

“(Officers) believed they were in danger and they believed Mr. Ramos was coming toward them,” said Ken Ervin, one of the lawyers representing Taylor.

After losing her reelection earlier this month, Travis County District Attorney Margaret Moore announced she would not bring the Ramos case to a grand jury before leaving office, despite saying she would in August. The job will likely fall to the winner of the district attorney race in November.

This story was produced as part of the Austin Monitor’s reporting partnership with KUT.

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