As a kid, Mike Ramos used to walk to get pastries for his grandmother every week from La Mexicana, the panaderia that's been a mainstay on South First Street for 30 years. Just a block away from where he and his mother Brenda Ramos lived on Annie Street, the bakery's south wall now bears two murals commemorating Mike, who was shot and killed by Austin Police Officer Christopher Taylor in April.
A day after the release of dashcam and bodycam footage of the shooting, Mike's mother and other criminal justice reform advocates gathered at the murals to reiterate calls to reform the Austin Police Department – by drastically cutting its budget and asking Police Chief Brian Manley to step down.
Brenda says Monday's release of footage from the shooting proves what she and other advocates have said all along: Taylor shouldn't have been on the streets.
The 10-year veteran was previously involved in the fatal shooting of Mauris DeSilva, a man who was undergoing a mental health crisis, last year. Brenda says, if Taylor was investigated and prosecuted then, he wouldn't have been called out on April 24 – and he wouldn't have shot and killed her son.
"They didn't have to kill him the way they did," she said. "That hurts me what they did to my son. I could've still had him here today. There was other ways."
Taylor is still under investigation for the DeSilva shooting.
Brenda said the video shows that Mike was cooperating with officers, unarmed, scared and being threatened with shouts of "Impact him!" – a call from Taylor to Officer Mitchell Pieper to shoot him with a so-called “less-lethal” shotgun that fires bags filled with lead pellets. Pieper ended up shooting Mike with a less-lethal round, and then Mike fled in his car before being shot three times by Taylor.
"The officers instigated the situation from the moment they got there. From shouting demands to threats to 'impacts,' while aiming rifles at him while his hands were up," Brenda said. "He was unarmed. His hands were up. ... He had no weapon."
This isn't the first time Brenda has called for a more stringent and streamlined policy of suspension, investigation and, if necessary, prosecution of officers involved in fatal shootings. She first spoke publicly in May, and then in June at a massive demonstration at Huston-Tillotson University against police violence and racism. She's also testified at two Austin City Council meetings this summer.
Chas Moore, executive director of the Austin Justice Coalition, said the video illustrates that change is needed at the department, but that it won't come about if Manley is allowed to lead.
Moore and a collective of groups, such as Arte Texas, the Black Austin Coalition, the Black Leaders Collective, Just Liberty and the Texas Fair Defense Project, are part of a chorus of advocates and Austinites that are calling on the city to drastically cut APD's budget by as much as $100 million. The collective is also calling for the firings of Taylor and Pieper, and asking APD Chief of Staff Troy Gay and Assistant City Manager Rey Arellano to step down, along with Manley.
"How many times does Brenda Ramos have to get up here and pour her heart out and think about her son each time, before we actually start moving the ball on justice for Mike Ramos?" Moore asked.
Frank Ortega, a local director of the League of United Latin American Citizens, specifically called on outgoing District Attorney Margaret Moore to reverse her pledge to delay any motion on the investigation into Mike's shooting until the next district attorney takes over the office next year.
"That's not the next DA's responsibility. It is the current DA['s],” Ortega said. “She needs to fulfill her promise to get this done this year – not next year. ... Margaret Moore, our current DA, you have an oath. You have a responsibility to do what needs to be done. Justice – and justice now."
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