Officer-Involved Shooting In Southeast Austin Spurs Investigation And Protests

Apr 26, 2020

The Travis County District Attorney’s Office and Austin’s Office of Police Oversight are investigating an officer-involved shooting that happened Friday night in Southeast Austin. Local organizations have deemed the incident — which resulted in the death of a 42-year-old man — unwarranted, and members of the community protested Saturday. 

Officers arrived at an apartment complex at 2601 South Pleasant Valley Road on Friday evening, after receiving a 911 call saying people might be doing drugs in a parking lot and a man was reportedly holding a gun, Austin Police Chief Brian Manley said in a press conference. Based on a description of the individual’s vehicle, he said, police had reason to believe the same car was involved in an incident the day before in which the person driving evaded officers.

When police arrived, the man got out of the vehicle and put his hands in the air. Manley said the man was not complying with the officers’ commands, and an officer shot a “bean bag” round at him. The man then returned to his vehicle and began driving away. Another officer then shot his rifle at the vehicle, which crashed into a parked car. The man was taken to the hospital, where he died.

Though police did not identify the man, community groups have identified him as Michael Ramos.

The Austin Justice Coalition held a virtual press conference Saturday to address the incident. Members called the incident senseless and argued Ramos drove away because he was trying to escape harm. 

Chas Moore, the coalition’s executive director and founder, said people told his group Ramos was black and Hispanic. Moore said the shooting could have been avoided.

“In spite of a pandemic that is pausing the entire world, racism and police brutality continue to persist,” he said. 

Members of the community protested Saturday, saying the incident was unjust. 

The East Austin chapter of the League of United Latin American Citizens also condemned the shooting and is calling for Manley’s resignation

In a video update Saturday evening, Manley said APD is working with the Travis County district attorney and the Office of Police Oversight to investigate the incident. He indicated investigators are using videos of the incident, including those from the officers’ body cameras and police vehicles, as well as those posted on social media. He urged people who have a video of the incident to share it with police.

“It is important that anyone else that we have not yet had the opportunity to speak with or anyone who has video of the incident, please come forward,” Manley said. “Please give us your account or give us the information you have so that we can conduct a thorough investigation.”

Manley said the department is working on getting a search warrant for the man’s vehicle to determine if there was a gun in there. A woman who was in the car with him has been detained as the incident is being investigated, the police chief said Friday. The officer who shot the non-lethal weapon had been on the job for three months, he said, and the officer who shot the rifle had been on the job for five years.

Earlier this month, a report was released that investigated allegations of racism and homophobia against two assistant police chiefs. Investigators were largely unable to corroborate the accusations, but did say anecdotes they heard during the investigation raised concerns about racist and sexist behavior within APD.

“Like many others, I’ve seen disturbing video of this fatal encounter,” Austin City Council Member Natasha Harper-Madison, who represents District 1, tweeted Saturday. “At a time when trust between APD and the community is at rock-bottom, we need a fully transparent and expedient investigation that pulls no punches in the pursuit of accountability. Justice is essential, pandemic or not, and I will continue to monitor this developing situation.”

Council Member Greg Casar, who represents District 4, wrote Ramos should be alive. 

“APD has de-escalation rules,” he tweeted. “It has training. But those things dont seem to be enough.”

Got a tip? Email Marisa Charpentier at mcharpentier@kut.org. Follow her on Twitter @marisacharp.

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