AUSTIN (KXAN) — Prosecutors have told a judge they are nearly finished presenting their case against Austin Police Officer Christopher Taylor, who is on trial for murder in the death of Mike Ramos. Taylor’s attorneys are expected to take over as early as Tuesday.
Taylor shot and killed Ramos, 42, during an incident with police back in April 2020 at a south Austin apartment complex parking lot. Taylor is on administrative leave with APD.
Previous coverage of this trial:
- APD Officer Christopher Taylor’s statement read during murder trial
- Medical Examiner walks through autopsy of Mike Ramos in APD officer’s murder trial
- APD officers testify in fellow officer’s murder trial
- ‘I would take that back’: Woman who called 911 testifies in APD officer’s murder trial
- Witness video shown in first day of APD officer murder case
- Opening statements wrap up in murder trial involving APD officer
- Jury selected in APD officer’s murder trial
- Judge grants mistrial motion in APD officer murder case
APD academy instructor
Monday afternoon, the state called an APD instructor, Michael Decker, to the stand. Decker is an expert in high-risk traffic stops.
Officers on scene with Taylor have previously testified that they treated their initial approach to Ramos as a high-risk traffic stop.
The state had the instructor walk through how one of those traffic stops should be conducted, including how many officers should be giving commands and best practices for getting someone out of their car. That’s where the jury left off Monday before being released early.
Detective details investigation
The jury continued to hear Monday morning from a retired Austin Police Department sergeant who was the lead investigator for this shooting in 2020.
Sergeant Dan Mireles testified first on Friday that the police department’s Special Investigations Unit (SIU) deviated from standard operating procedure by allowing Taylor’s attorneys to view body camera and in-car camera videos prior to an interview Mireles set up with Taylor nearly two weeks after the shooting.
Typically, the police department allows officers in officer-involved shootings to view video prior to their interview to refresh their memory, Mireles testified. But it is uncommon for attorneys to view the video without the officer present, which is what happened in this case, Mireles said.
Mireles testified that after Taylor’s attorneys viewed the videos, they returned with a more than five-page statement from Taylor, instead of providing an interview as scheduled.
“I was disappointed, but it is within their right. They are representing their client,” Mireles said.
The defense argued without the jury present that watching a video after the fact can “corrupt someone’s memory” and claimed they informed Mireles of that the day of the scheduled interview.
Mireles was asked to read Taylor’s written statement in court Friday.
“I observed Ramos’ vehicle began to move forward. I perceived this action as a threat of death or serious bodily injury to myself and several other officers in the path of the vehicle. Perceiving this threat, I fired my rifle, attempting to hit Ramos in the head and to ultimately stop the deadly force threat,” the statement read, in part.
The defense started Monday by cross-examining Mireles for roughly two hours.
Taylor’s attorneys had the detective walk through any involvement the District Attorney’s office had in his investigation of Taylor, including signing off on a search warrant for Ramos’ car.
“The point of all this is during an officer-involved shooting, you or other detectives have close communications and cooperation and are working in conjunction with the DA’s office?” Doug O’Connell, one of Taylor’s attorneys, questioned Mireles.
“Yes sir,” Mireles responded.
O’Connell also addressed several lines of questioning by the state Friday, including the validity of the state’s digital recreation and their questions about the police department’s investigation of Taylor. That included not having an in-car recording of Taylor’s departure from the scene and not pulling cell phones from officers involved.
“That was the first time you ever heard any criticism of these [procedures] from the DA’s office, correct?” O’Connell asked. Mireles agreed.
Ramos’ arrest history
The defense argued Monday that because officers had testified about whether Ramos may have been fearful during the incident prior to his being shot that it opens the door for the defense to bring in Ramos’ previous interactions with law enforcement.
Judge Dayna Blazey initially ruled against the defense but later allowed them to ask the Mireles the following:
- Was Ramos ever arrested before?
- In those arrests, was Ramos ever injured by police?
- In those arrests, was there ever a Special Investigations Unit (SIU) investigation?
Those answers could only be yes or no. The lead investigator was not allowed to elaborate on what Ramos was arrested for or how many times. Mireles said he had no evidence to indicate Ramos was ever previously injured by police or any of his previous arrests ended in the SIU.
Defense presents new element to jury during cross-examination
During cross-examination, O’Connell asked Sergeant Mireles about a man who was working on his car at the time of the shooting in the parking lot where Ramos was shot and killed. It’s a witness who hasn’t been discussed to this point before jurors.
One of the police officers on scene yelled at the man to move away from the incident, Mireles testified. He also said Ramos’ vehicle ended up roughly at the spot where the man was working on his car.
“In fairness, Chris in his statement didn’t say much of anything about the mechanic and he didn’t tell you he fired his weapon to protect the mechanic,” O’Connell said.
The state later asked if the man working on his car was ever interviewed, to which Mireles said he didn’t believe that was the case. He also testified that the man had fled the parking lot at the time of the actual shooting.