Austin, TX – An Austin police officer who has been charged with murder over the fatal shooting of a man who nearly ran over police with a stolen car has now been charged with murder in a separate case for shooting a man who came at officers with a knife less than a year earlier.
A Travis County grand jury handed down the indictments against Austin Police Department Officer Christopher Taylor and Officer Karl Krycia on Aug. 26, in connection with the July, 2019 officer-involved shooting of Mauris DeSilva, KXAN reported.
Both officers are now facing charges of murder and deadly conduct discharge firearm.
Their bail was set at $100,000 apiece.
According to Austin Police Department (APD) reports, DeSilva was experiencing a mental health crisis in July of 2019 and was holding a knife to his own throat when officers arrived at the scene, KXAN reported.
Police told him to move the knife away from his neck, and he initially complied and brought the weapon down near his side, police said.
But he refused to drop it, according to Ken Ervin, one of the attorneys representing the officers.
“[He] was told repeatedly to drop the knife and he did not,” Ervin said, according to KXAN.
When DeSilva suddenly moved towards police with the blade in his hand, Officer Taylor and Officer Krycia opened fire, police said.
“As Dr. DeSilva approached the officers, Officers Krycia and Taylor fired their duty weapons and another officer deployed a Taser,” the APD said in a statement on Aug. 27.
Brad Vinson, one of the attorneys representing DeSilva’s family, claimed DeSilva was only trying to turn around to “respond to their authority,” KXAN reported.
“You know, he didn’t have a chance,” Vinson alleged.
Since the 911 callers told police DeSilva was having a mental health crisis, they should have responded to the scene differently or brought a mental health professional with them, he added.
“They didn’t handle it like that. And because of that, someone died when they shouldn’t have,” Vinson told KXAN.
It is unclear whether or not the information regarding DeSilva’s mental health status had been passed on to Officer Taylor and Officer Krycia.
Even if they did know, the outcome likely wouldn’t have changed, Ervin told KXAN.
“That knife is going to supersede everything else,” he said.
According to Austin Police Association President Ken Casaday and Officer Taylor’s lawyers, Travis County District Attorney Jose Garza refused to allow a use-of-force expert testify before the grand jury, even though the prosecutor’s office had specifically chosen him, KXAN reported.
“The government’s own hand-picked use-of-force expert Dr. Howard Williams told the DA’s office that Officer Taylor’s use of force was legally justified, and yet the district attorney directed a grand jury investigation that resulted in indictments for murder,” defense attorney Doug O’Connell told the news outlet.
Although Williams confirmed he was not allowed to testify, Garza’s office said the allegations that Garza “or anyone acting in his capacity, would not let Dr. Williams testify are false,” KXAN reported.
“The State presented a thorough and balanced grand jury presentation consistent with its obligations under article 2.01 of the Code of Criminal Procedure,” Garza’s spokesperson claimed.
Garza’s office refused to comment on the grand jury proceedings any further, citing secrecy laws, KXAN reported.
Casaday denounced the indictments, calling them a “political prosecution by DA Garza.”
Officer Taylor, Officer Krycia, and the City of Austin are also the subjects of a wrongful death lawsuit, KXAN reported.
The attorney representing the DeSilva family said the indictments are “a step towards justice.”
“The tragic loss of their beloved son weighs on their hearts and their grief will last forever,” the family’ lawyer said in a statement to KXAN. “Officer Taylor has now been indicted twice for murder. If the City of Austin had better trained police officers to handle mental health episodes, Dr. DeSilva would be alive today. The City of Austin must be held accountable for their long history of failures in responding to mental health crises.”
In addition to the DeSilva case, Officer Taylor was previously indicted for murder in the death of 42-year-old career criminal Michael Ramos.
That case is still pending.
Shortly after he was elected, Garza promised to put the officer-involved shooting death of Ramos at the top of his investigation list, KXAN reported at the time.
“It’s one of the first cases that we will take a look at when I take office in January,” Garza said in November of 2020. “My heart continues to break for the Ramos family that they have had to wait so long for justice.”
“We know that holding law enforcement accountable when they break the law is critical to restoring the trust of our community and to ensuring its safety,” the prosecutor declared after the indictment in the Ramos case.
He noted that it was the Travis County grand jury who “heard the evidence and the law” and determined “probable cause exists that Officer Taylor committed murder.”
Garza said he hopes that the grand jury’s decision made it clear that “if law enforcement commit a crime, if they engage in misconduct, they will be held accountable.”
“That is what our community expects, and that is what our community is prepared to do through their role and function as grand jurors in Travis County,” he added.
O’Connell said the grand jury’s decision in the Ramos case wasn’t a surprise, KTBC reported.
“We are disappointed but sadly not surprised at this indictment,” the statement read. “As early as July of last year, then-DA candidate Jose Garza had made up his mind that Officer Taylor committed a crime and went so far as to offer an implied promise to indict him several months before being elected District Attorney or having access to any case evidence.”
“We would remind Mr. Garza that his sworn duty is not to be an advocate for one party months before knowing the facts. It is to see that justice is done,” Officer Taylor’s lawyers said. “Today’s indictment is not justice; it is the fulfillment of a campaign talking point and yet more evidence of antipolice bias. We look forward to presenting the facts of this case, in their entirety, to a panel of citizens not behind closed doors and not under his exclusive control.”
The fatal encounter between Austin police and Ramos began at approximately 6:31 p.m. on April 24, 2020, when someone called 911 to report that a man and a woman “appeared to be using narcotics” inside a gold Toyota Prius parked in a lot of an apartment complex on South Pleasant Valley Road, according to the death report completed by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton’s office.
“They’re in the car smokin’ crack and cookin’ meth,” the caller said in the 911 recording released by Austin police. “And I seen him with a gun. He had a gun, too.”
The caller told the dispatcher the male suspect “has a gun to this lady” and was “holding it up” and “pointing it at her.”
“As officers responded to the area, an update to the call indicated the male subject had a gun,” the Attorney General’s Office report read. “Officers requested the assistance of Air 1 (helicopter) and K-9, but they were not immediately available.”
Officers quickly determined the vehicle involved in the call had previously been reported as stolen, the Statesman reported.
In an effort to lessen the likelihood of the suspect trying to flee, officers “strategically parked their patrol vehicles” to block the exit, according to the report.
Because the call had been labeled as “gun urgent,” police ordered the occupants of the suspect vehicle to “show their hands” and to exit the car, the Attorney General’s Office said.
The officers then asked the male, later identified as Ramos, to lift his shirt and turn in a circle so they could visibly check him for weapons.
“The male subject initially complied with commands but eventually became non-compliant and verbally confrontational,” according to the report.
Ramos demanded to know why police were pointing guns at him and told them to put them away, then ultimately “walked back toward the driver’s door,” where he “remained non-compliant and verbally confrontational,” the report read.
Due to the nature of the call and the information the caller provided, officers were concerned Ramos had a gun inside the vehicle and wanted to keep him from getting back inside, but the suspect ignored their repeated commands to back away from the open driver’s door.
Police were also aware the suspect could still potentially be hiding a weapon on his person, the report noted.
“Officers decided to deploy a less-lethal munition to gain compliance,” the Attorney General’s Office said. “The less-lethal munition struck the front of the male subject on the left side of his body but did not prove to be effective as the male subject quickly entered the driver’s door of the Toyota Prius.”
Ramos slammed the door shut and started the car’s engine, ignoring officers’ commands to turn the vehicle off.
Seconds later, Ramos accelerated forward from his parking spot.
Dashcam footage showed the officers as they scrambled out of the path of the fleeing vehicle.
“Fearing the male subject intended to use the Toyota Prius as a deadly weapon, one patrol officer fired his patrol rifle, striking the male driver,” the report read.
The suspect vehicle crashed into another vehicle in the lot before coming to a stop.
Officers then approached the Prius and pulled Ramos out in order to apply medical aid.
The suspect was rushed to a local hospital, where he was pronounced dead.
Investigators determined Ramos was not in possession of a gun at the time of the shooting, according to the Statesman.
The female passenger who was inside the suspect vehicle prior to the officer-involved shooting was uninjured and was not charged with any offenses, police said in the video release.