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Crime & Justice

DA Garza Announces Javier Ambler And Mike Ramos Cases Will Go To A Grand Jury Before April

Ambler Mural 10 10 20.jpg
Gabriel C. Pérez
/
KUT
A mural of Javier Ambler created by Williamson County artist Devon Clarkson. Ambler died while being detained by Williamson County deputies in 2019.

Two high-profile cases of police killings will go before a grand jury by the end of March, Travis County District Attorney José Garza announced Thursday.

Javier Ambler, who was Black, died after being restrained and tased in the custody of Williamson County sheriff's deputies in 2019. Mike Ramos, who was Black and Latino, was fatally shot by an Austin police officer last April.

Both their names were invoked during local protests of police violence and systemic racism in the wake of George Floyd's killing by Minneapolis police.

Garza's office said in a press release Thursday that it expects to bring both cases before a grand jury by the end of March.

Garza also unveiled a timeline for a litany of other cases involving police violence his office plans to put before grand juries in Travis County – including incidents of officer-involved shootings, deaths in custody and an allegation of sexual assault from 2018.

Included in those cases is the death of Mauris DeSilva, who was having a mental health crisis when he was fatally shot by Austin police officers in 2019. One of the officers involved in that shooting, Christopher Taylor, fatally shot Ramos less than a year later.

Taylor was under investigation for DeSilva's death at the time of Ramos' killing. Ramos' mother, Brenda, has called for his firing and plans to lobby the Texas Legislature to reform statewide policies allowing officers under investigation to continue policing.

APD has said it won't formally discipline officers involved in shootings until the cases are resolved in Travis County courts.

The announcement cements Garza's commitment to ramp up investigations and prosecutions of police violence. His predecessor, Margaret Moore, was more selective in pursuing charges against law enforcement officers during her one-term tenure, and she rolled back a policy to investigate all police shootings. Garza, who defeated Moore in the Democratic primary last July, ran on a progressive platform to investigate all officer-involved shootings.

After her defeat, Moore said she would hold off on pursuing the Ambler and Ramos cases.

Garza told KUT he hopes the announcement would encourage more Austinites to come forward in the future if they experience any misconduct while interacting with law enforcement.

"It is important that they believe that, if a law enforcement officer commits a crime, that they will be held accountable," he said. "And that when a person is harmed or dies at the hands of a law enforcement officer, what our community expects is that the prosecutors will investigate quickly and thoroughly."

In addition to the Ambler and Ramos cases, a sexual assault case against an officer will be first in the queue to go before a grand jury, Garza said. The other cases will then go in chronological order.

The list of cases includes incidents in which the Austin Police Department used "less lethal" ammunition marketed to disperse crowds. Brad Ayala and Justin Howell sustained serious injuries after being shot in the head by officers during summer protests against police violence. The incidents led to widespread outrage over the use of the rounds, leading the department to pare back their use – though, it has continued to stockpile the ammunition.

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