5 police officers testify on the 10th day of Christopher Taylor’s trial
AUSTIN, Texas — Five police officers testified on the 10th day of the trial of Christopher Taylor, the Austin police officer who shot and killed Michael Ramos outside a southeast Austin apartment complex in April 2020.
On Friday, the jury saw more camera footage of what happened that day.
Officers Darrell Cantu Harkless, Mitchell Pepper and James Morgan were brought in by the defense. All three previously testified at trial at the state’s request.
Some other witnesses brought by the defense were Katrina Ratcliffe, who left the Austin Police Department (APD) in the fall of 2020, and Officer Valerie Tavarez, whose body camera footage was reviewed.
The defense questioned Ratcliffe about her recollection of the shooting. Ratcliffe recalled telling Ramos not to drive and to get out of the Toyota Prius in which he was traveling.
“Tell us again, please, why you didn’t want him to drive the car,” the defense asked.
“Because of the layout of the scene, Officer Cantu Harkless and I were on the only viable exit, we were in the only lane. There was a little bit of the trail left that we were standing on, the sidewalk, a little bit of a clearance before that. We were like a tree,” Ratcliffe said. “We were the only route a car could take out of that area.”
The defense then asked: “Were you concerned that he was going to try to drive through that gap between Cantu-Harkless’s car and the tree?”
“I was,” Ratcliffe said.
Ratcliffe testified that if she had shot at the Prius, the car would have been an “unguided missile.”
The state then questioned Ratcliffe about her testimony.
“Therefore, if that does not help anyone in the path of the Prius, it is not necessary to shoot that driver, because it would not protect anyone,” the state asked.
“I’m talking about myself and my position in front of that car,” Ratcliffe said.
“So your answer to my question is yes,” the state pressed.
“Yes,” Ratcliffe replied.
Tavarez then began her testimony. The court also reviewed her body camera footage.
The defense asked: “If you were next to Officer Taylor and you had no police officers in front of the muzzle of your gun, would you have a belief today, one way or another, whether you would have fired at approximately the same time?” .
“I think so, because I thought the car was heading straight toward us,” Tavarez said.
The state then questioned Tavarez.
“You agree with me that police officers, especially those with APD, are rightful servants of the community,” the prosecution asked.
“Yes,” Tavarez replied.
“And they’re supposed to serve not just the people they’re trying to protect, but the people they’re trying to arrest,” the prosecution asked.
“Yes,” Tavarez said again.
“You were trained never to use force unless necessary,” the prosecution asked.
“Right,” Tavarez said.
The prosecution asked, “If an officer uses lethal force in violation of the law, who will be held accountable for that?”
“This officer,” Tavarez said.
The eleventh day of testimony will begin on Monday morning.
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