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Crime & Justice

Family Of Mike Ramos Files Federal Lawsuit Against APD, City Of Austin Over Fatal Shooting

Brenda Ramos 10 14 20.jpg
Julia Reihs
/
KUT
Brenda Ramos, mother of Mike Ramos, speaks at a press conference in front of the Mike Ramos mural outside of La Mexicana Bakery in South Austin in October. Ramos called on Austin Police Chief Brian Manley to decide whether Officer Taylor, who fatally shot her son, should be fired.

The family of Mike Ramos, a Black and Latino man who was killed by an Austin Police officer in April, is suing the City of Austin, the Austin Police Department and the officer responsible in federal court.

Filed Wednesday on behalf of Ramos' mother, Brenda Ramos, the suit alleges Officer Christopher Taylor violated Mike Ramos' civil rights when he fatally shot him at an apartment complex off Pleasant Valley Road in Southeast Austin.

Along with the killing of George Floyd, Ramos' death sparked a summer of protests in Austin and a community-wide reexamination of policing that ultimately led to the Austin City Council's decision to cut back and reinvest APD's budget.

The killing stemmed from a 911 call that alleged someone at the Rosemont Apartment complex was using drugs and that someone had a gun in the parking lot. A half-dozen officers responded to the call, cordoning off the parking lot and detaining Ramos at gunpoint. Ramos attempted to flee in a car toward a dead-end in the parking lot when he was fatally shot by Taylor.

APD has said previously that the officers at the scene believed Ramos was armed. He was not.

Attorney Rebecca Webber, who represents Brenda Ramos, argues in the complaint that the case is emblematic of consistent allegations of racism against the department. Webber cited a 2016 report detailing inequity in policing and a city-commissioned report out earlier this year that examined racism within the department as evidence in the complaint.

"She's bringing the lawsuit ... to try and vindicate those civil rights and hold Officer Taylor accountable, " Webber said. "But there's a larger claim in her lawsuit against the City of Austin as a whole for fostering a police department that, as the City Council has now recognized, has racist outcomes."

The City of Austin had anticipated this lawsuit would be filed, a spokesperson for the city told KUT in a statement.

"We will handle it respectfully and fairly as we do with all officer involved shooting cases," the statement said. "This is a difficult time for everyone involved. The litigation process will not make it easier for anyone affected by Mr. Ramos’ death, but it is the process available for the parties to resolve the liability issue.”

Mike Ramos' case is no longer under active investigation by APD or the Texas Rangers, and outgoing Travis County District Attorney Margaret Moore has expressed she will pass the case on to incoming District Attorney José Garza. Garza has said the case is a top priority when he's sworn-in in January and that he intends to bring it before a grand jury.

While Webber says she's hopeful that a grand jury could indict Taylor, she recognizes these types of cases don't often result in guilty verdicts.

"[The] district attorney will probably get an indictment, [but it] is still extremely difficult to hold a police officer accountable for murder – in our state and our country," she said.

Earlier this week, the Department of Justice declined to prosecute two officers involved in the 2014 killing of Tamir Rice, a Black 12-year-old whose killing sparked national outrage over police violence against communities of color.

Webber says Brenda Ramos hopes to lobby the Texas Legislature this session for police reform that could include a measure that would automatically suspend an officer who's under investigation for use-of-force for a year. Taylor was under investigation for a previous fatal shooting when he killed Ramos.

Got a tip? Email Andrew Weber at aweber@kut.org. Follow him on Twitter @England_Weber.

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