AUSTIN (KXAN) — On Monday, the Austin Police Department provided an update to the fatal officer-involved shooting that happened April 24 and led to the death of 42-year-old Michael Brent Ramos.
The incident began when officers responded to a 911 call 2600 block of South Pleasant Valley Road. The caller reported that a couple were using drugs in a car in a parking lot and that the man in the car was waving a gun in the air.
Given the vehicle description, Austin police believed the car may have been involved in a crime the day before. Officers approached the car together when they arrived. The department said officers asked the man to step out of the car, and initially he got out, but did not comply with the officers’ commands. Officers say a woman was inside the car with the suspect.
Manley said in a briefing that night that after the suspect allegedly refused to comply with officers’ commands, a “non-lethal” shot was fired at the suspect. He said that after this, the suspect got back into the vehicle and drove out of the parking space — at which time the lethal gunshot was fired.
The non-lethal shot, a bean-bag round, was fired by APD officer Mitchell Pieper, according to Manley. The Police Chief said that officer Christopher Taylor fired an unspecified amount of shots at Ramos. Officer Taylor, commissioned in 2014, was also involved in a deadly shooting in downtown Austin in July 2019, APD reports.
Police Chief Brian Manley explained during Monday’s briefing that a search was performed on April 26 and that no firearm was found inside Ramos’ vehicle or in the vicinity of the incident.
“There was no firearm located,” Manley reiterated.
“It just confirmed what we had already heard,” said Chas Moore, Executive Director of the Austin Justice Coalition. “We’re glad that has been confirmed that Mike Ramos didn’t have a gun and that he didn’t pose a threat to the officers. We stay affirmed that this shooting was uncalled for and that it was senseless.”
In addition to APD’s internal affairs and the Travis County District Attorney, the Texas Rangers are also investigating the shooting.
“We brought in the Texas Rangers so that we could give our community the confidence that we were conducting that fair, impartial and objective review of this case. Our special investigations unit is capable of doing that. They do that in all officer-involved shootings, so this in no way is indication that they did not have the ability, but we recognize the importance of community having trust in us and in our investigation of this case.”
Moore said he’s glad the Texas Rangers are involved.
“I don’t think there’s any trust in the police department right now,” he said. “So we can just have that line of transparency for the community. So we can, you know, move forward expeditiously and get justice for the Ramos family.”
Various videos of the incident exist and have circulated since the incident and Manley explained on Monday that the various official videos — dashcam video and body-worn camera recordings — will be released as soon as they can without compromising the “integrity of the investigation.”
Questions and concerns about racial bias
The shooting raised questions and concerns — and protests — about the treatment of minorities by police. Shortly after the shooting, the Austin Justice Coalition, an organization that addresses criminal justice reform, hosted a news conference to discuss the incident.
“This senseless shooting could have been avoided. There are multiple videos and multiple angles of different videos that shows [the suspect] , maybe not quietly, but he was asking the cops one, what was going on and then two, could they put the guns down. He said that multiple times from the things that we saw,” said AJC Executive Director and Founder Chas Moore.
Moore also pointed to a recent memo released by the City of Austin detailing the investigation and findings into claims of racism and homophobia within the Austin Police Department.
“How is it that while people are worrying about dying from a disease that is evolving and transforming every day, if you are black and or brown you still have to worry about police brutality?” said Moore. “I think it goes to show that the COVID-19 pandemic is nothing compared to the epidemic of police brutality against black and brown bodies in this country and I will say globally.”
During the Monday briefing, Manley said that so far there have been 45 interviews related to the investigation — which is open and active.