Editor’s note: The above video shows KXAN News Today’s morning headlines for Monday, Oct. 23, 2023.
AUSTIN (KXAN) — Opening statements began Monday in the trial of Austin Police Officer Christopher Taylor, who was charged with murder in the death of Mike Ramos.
Taylor shot and killed Ramos, 42, during a confrontation with police back in April 2020 at a south Austin apartment complex parking lot. Taylor is on administrative leave with APD.
Attorneys representing Taylor opted not to provide opening statements before a jury Monday.
The jury did, however, hear from prosecutors who used maps, photos and screenshots of body-worn camera footage to walk jurors through the events leading up to Ramos’ death. The state is working to prove Ramos was not a threat to anyone when he was shot.
“He [Taylor] has made a decision. A critical decision to violate his training…That decision is that if the car moves at all he’s going to shoot,” the prosecution told the jury in opening statements.
The state started Monday morning with Tavon Jefferson on the stand. Jefferson said she lived at the apartment complex where Ramos was shot and killed.
Jefferson told a jury she stepped outside to talk to family members when she saw Ramos and police interacting. She pulled out her phone and started filming, she said. The jury saw that video shortly after its morning break.
Jurors also heard from Ramos’ sister, an Austin Police Department detective and a man who called 911 to report Ramos as suspicious prior to his death in 2020.
Backstory on the jury selection process
Earlier this month, officials completed jury selection in Taylor’s trial. On Oct. 16, attorneys asked the jury pool about any prior knowledge they had on the case, as well as their experience with and perspectives on law enforcement overall.
The latest jury selection followed a mistrial motion in May, after several issues were noted throughout the jury selection process. Some of the noted hold ups with the jury selection in May derived from issues with jurors’ availability. At the time, Judge Dayna Blazey said the trial was expected to last between three and four weeks.
In July, Taylor’s attorneys filed a motion to request a change of venue for his trial. In their request, Taylor’s attorneys alleged the case was too widely known in the Austin area, jeopardizing the possibility of selecting an impartial jury.
Blazey ruled in September the defense attorneys didn’t successfully provide information that would suggest the courts couldn’t find a fair jury in Taylor’s case.
Background on fatal shooting of Mike Ramos
Following Ramos’ April 2020 death, his mother, Brenda, sued the City of Austin and Taylor in December 2020. That was a wrongful death civil lawsuit, with Brenda claiming Taylor shot Mike without justification.
“Any competent police officer would have known that shooting a suspect in the head because he was driving away from police and bystanders—toward a dead-end blocked by dumpsters and a building—was a gross civil rights violation,” the lawsuit read.
The lawsuit alleged audio recordings revealed multiple officers on scene were giving “chaotic, conflicting shouts” to Mike during their encounter.
The lawsuit also claims the city fostered an “institutionally racist and aggressive policing culture,” citing a Center for Policing Equity study that shows “Austin police officers’ use of force in those [Black and Hispanic] communities was disproportionate and unjustified.”
Later in 2021, a Travis County grand jury returned an indictment for Taylor. KXAN previously reported former prosecutor Gary Cobb was coming out of retirement to assist with the murder trial. Travis County District Attorney José Garza made a special request for Cobb to help with the case, according to a source who asked to remain anonymous because of their proximity to the case.