Brenda Ramos Sues City Over Son’s Killing: Lawsuit argues killing was “a direct result of the racism that has permeated policing in Austin” – News
Brenda Ramos (Photo by John Anderson)
The police murder of Mike Ramos last spring “was a direct result of the racism that has permeated Austin police,” according to a lawsuit filed last week on behalf of his mother. Brenda Ramos’ lawsuit, prepared by Rebecca Webber of the Hendler Flores law firm, seeks a lawsuit and damages for the loss of her only son.
Mike Ramos, a 42-year-old black man and Latinx, died on April 24 after officers were called to his apartment complex in southeast Austin. A resident had called 911 to complain that a man was holding a gun to a woman’s head while the couple were doing drugs in a car. Several police units responded to the call and blocked the parking lot exit. Eight officers then drew their guns and ordered Ramos out of the car.
The lawsuit, citing a log compiled from body-worn camera video, shows the chaos that followed when various officers issued conflicting orders to Ramos: “Put your hands up!” “Hey, relax! Relax, Michael! You have to turn around for me.” “Hey, hey, Michael, get on your knees!”
The video with the critical incident first shows that Ramos complied with the officers’ orders, showing his hands and demonstrating that he had no weapon in his waistband. He grew restless when the officers, whose guns were still pointing at him, demanded that he go over to them and ask them to lower their weapons. A high-ranking officer then instructed Mitchell Pieper, fresh out of the police academy, to shoot Ramos with a “less fatal” lead bullet: “He does not obey orders and has a gun” – although Ramos has shown the officers and said otherwise.
After Pieper followed the order and fired his shotgun and hit Ramos with the pellet bag, Ramos got back into his car. “Nine seconds later, as Mike slowly drove forward and away from the police and bystanders to the dumpsters in the parking lot cul-de-sac, Officer [Christopher] Taylor shot Mike in the head and killed him, “the lawsuit says.” There was no gun on Mike, in the car or around. Officers never saw a gun or anything they thought was a gun. “
The lawsuit blames Ramos’ death at the feet of a racist police culture in Austin, citing the city’s own data and reform efforts as evidence. This includes racial profiling statistics that are collected by the Austin Police Department and analyzed by other city offices. These show that the APD runs over more black and Latin American motorists than whites and that these stops lead to disproportionately more discretionary searches and arrests.
The lawsuit also notes that just a week before Ramos’ death, the city released the results of a third party investigation known as the Tatum Report into the use of racist language by APD officials, including those in the upper echelons the widespread belief that anyone who reports such wrongdoing will face retaliation from the other police.
Filing the lawsuit marks the beginning of a long journey for Ms. Ramos and the city that could take years to resolve. While it continues in a civil court, the long-belated criminal investigation into Ramos’ death could also find its way to a grand jury. Travis’ new District Attorney José Garza has identified the Ramos case as one of his top priorities and has said he will address him within his first 30 days of his tenure.