By Henry Underwood
On March 10, a Travis County grand jury indicted Austin Police Department officer Christopher Taylor and charged him with murder in the lethal shooting of Mike Ramos, which occurred on April 24, 2020 in a Southeast Austin apartment complex. Taylor, whose bail was set at $100,000, bonded out within 22 minutes of his arrest.
The indictment marks the first time in decades that an Austin police officer has been charged with murder for killing someone while on duty.
The jury declined, however, to indict officer Mitchell Pieper, who shot a bean bag round at Ramos—an escalation of force that quickly led to Taylor unleashing multiple rounds of live ammo at Ramos, killing him as he tried to drive away. Authorities later confirmed that Ramos did not have a gun on his person or in the car, contrary to what police claimed after the shooting.
On May 29, just after the murder of George Floyd and the uprising in Minneapolis, Margaret Moore, the Travis County District Attorney at the time of Ramos’ murder, released a statement claiming she would present the case to a grand jury, spurring protests across the city that called for justice for Ramos and the immediate arrest of Officer Taylor. The protests began that same night, within an hour of Moore’s statement. The next day saw some of the largest, most combative protests in Austin’s history, which raised the call for people’s justice for both Mike Ramos and George Floyd.
Moore declined to indict Taylor during her term, instead choosing to hand the case off to her successor, current DA Jose Garza, after her defeat in the election. Garza has taken credit for the indictment and arrest, calling it “a significant step towards justice for the Ramos family and our community.” His comments ignore the actions of the people who took to the streets to demand justice for Ramos, which are the only reason the case received the proper attention and pressure to indict.
Then-APD chief Brian Manley declined to fire Taylor following the murder, allowing him to remain on the force and draw a salary. While Garza won the election on his promises to deliver justice to the people of Austin and hold police accountable, neither Manley’s ousting nor Taylor’s indictment indicate any material change to the system that led to the murder of Ramos and so many others across the city.
“It shouldn’t have been this long,” said Brenda Ramos, the mother of Mike Ramos, when asked about the news of Taylor’s indictment. “It could’ve been sooner. I mean, it was murder right off the bat.”
“He would take the shirt off his back [to give] to a homeless man he saw cold out there,” Brenda Ramos said of her son in an interview with bourgeois local media. “I wake up at night with tears in my eyes, thinking about the expression on my baby’s face,” she said, adding that “it will be a year next month. To me, it feels like it was just yesterday.”
DA Garza claims that justice is coming, but there is no guarantee of Taylor’s conviction—and while the indictment delivers a win for Garza’s public image, it is the fierce rebellion of the people of Austin during a summer of combative protests that has forced the ruling class to prosecute one of its own reactionary enforcers in this instance.
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