AUSTIN (KXAN) — After a more than two-week trial and four full days of deliberation, a Travis County jury could not unanimously decide whether or not Austin Police Officer Christopher Taylor is guilty of murder in the 2020 shooting death of Michael Ramos.
It’s the second time a mistrial has been declared in this case. Prosecutors will determine whether Taylor will be retried.
“The idea that they have to go through another one of these, I think is really troubling to them and to me, but at the end of the day, the interest of justice demand that the District Attorney retry this case,” Chris Harris, the policy director of the Austin Justice Coalition said outside of the courtroom.
“In the event that they intend to do that, obviously we will be ready, and we will try this case as many times as it takes to get a not guilty,” Ken Ervin, one of Taylor’s attorneys, said.
The mistrial came after Judge Dayna Blazey issued what is referred to as an “Allen charge” earlier in the week, asking the jurors who were holding out to consider the majority’s side. Blazey said jurors announced Monday they had not changed their minds over the weekend and could not come to a unanimous decision.
During the trial, state prosecutors worked to show that Ramos was driving away from officers — and that nobody was in danger of being hit by his vehicle — when Taylor shot and killed him.
Meanwhile, the overall message from Taylor’s attorneys: The only thing the jury needs to consider is whether Taylor’s perception of the threat was reasonable.
Roughly half a dozen Austin police officers responded to an apartment complex at the 2600 block of South Pleasant Valley Road in April 2020 after a woman called 911 and reported a couple in a gold Prius apparently doing drugs. The caller reported that the man in the vehicle, who was later identified as Michael Ramos, was holding a gun.
That 911 call was played for the jury during Taylor’s trial, and the woman who made that call testified that she lied to dispatch and that she never saw Ramos with a gun.
“If I could take anything back, I would take that back, sir. I would take that back, sir. I never seen that man with a gun,” Meko Scott said holding back tears. She apologized to Ramos’ family, who was sitting in the courtroom at the time.
Austin Police Department officers testified that they stopped less than a mile from the apartment complex to make a plan prior to approaching Ramos. He was known to law enforcement for non-violent crimes, and a “Be On The Lookout” (or BOLO) was out for the stolen vehicle Ramos was driving.
Officers approached Ramos as a group, positioning their cars in a way that blocked the only paved exit out of the lot where Ramos was parked — though state prosecutors argued during the trial that Ramos could have escaped from the parking lot through a wooded area to the north of officers. The jury saw various body camera and car camera videos of that approach and the moments that followed.
At that point, officers got out of their cars and began giving commands to Ramos. Officers testified that, at points, Ramos was compliant, but at others, he was clearly distracted, not following directions and scanning for a way out. Officers testified they still believed Ramos could have a gun.
Officers had Ramos lift his shirt and turn in a circle, but while he did, he wandered back toward his car door, video showed. After back and forth between officers and Ramos — where Ramos expresses he wants the officers to lower their weapons — APD Officer Mitchell Pieper fired a bean bag round at Ramos. It hit him in the side, and officers testified he appeared to fall back into his car.
Ramos’ girlfriend, Rebeca Garcia, was in the passenger seat. When Ramos got back into his vehicle and closed the door, Garcia got out of the car and laid on the ground. She was later detained by law enforcement and would go on to file a lawsuit against the City of Austin.
Officers were parked at an angle, slightly southwest of Ramos. Videos showed Ramos driving west for roughly a second and then turning north, away from officers. Experts testified that Taylor shot Ramos three times with his department-issued rifle — in the abdomen, head and arm.
KXAN has previously reported that Taylor is on administrative leave with the department.
On the first day of this trial, Taylor’s attorneys reserved their opening statement and the jury only heard from prosecutors — who used maps, photos and screenshots of body-worn camera footage to walk jurors through the events leading up to Ramos’ death.
In the following days, the state would call multiple witnesses, including people on the scene during the shooting, Ramos’ girlfriend, police officers, a use-of-force expert, the CEO of a digital reconstruction company and the Travis County Medical Examiner.
After the state rested, the defense gave its opening statement, where attorney Doug O’Connell walked the jury through what evidence it would present. That included additional officers at the scene who were not called by the state, new dash camera video and additional expert witnesses who testified to APD training and what Taylor may have perceived.
On Monday, Nov. 6, the defense rested. The next day, jurors were taken to the scene of the shooting and allowed to walk around. Closing arguments happened later that afternoon, and the jury began deliberations Wednesday morning.
This is the second time a jury has been selected for this case. In May of 2023, a judge granted a mistrial.
Read previous coverage:
- Jury hears closing arguments Tuesday in APD officer’s murder trial
- Defense rests case in APD officer’s murder trial
- Prosecutors rest case in APD officer’s murder trial, defense takes over
- State calls use-of-force expert in APD officer’s murder trial
- Prosecutors expect to wrap mid-week in APD officer’s murder trial
During this trial, attorneys did not discuss or refer to another fatal shooting involving Taylor.
In July 2019, Taylor was accused of shooting and killing 46-year-old Mauris Nishanga DeSilva in downtown Austin during a check welfare call. In addition to a murder charge, he also faces a charge of deadly conduct for the discharge of a firearm related to the 2019 incident. That case is still going through the court process, according to the Travis County District Attorney’s office.
This is a developing story.