Austin Police Officer Is Charged With Murder in a Second On-Duty Killing
Prosecutors said Friday that Christopher Taylor had been charged with fatally shooting Mauris DeSilva in July 2019, about nine months before he fatally shot another man.,
A police officer in Austin, Texas, who was charged with murdering a man in April 2020 has been charged with murdering another man about nine months earlier, prosecutors said on Friday.
The latest indictments charge the officer, Christopher Taylor, 29, and another officer, Karl Krycia, 28, with murder and deadly conduct in the fatal shooting of Mauris DeSilva, 46, who had been holding a knife in the hallway of his condominium complex on July 31, 2019.
The charges came five months after Officer Taylor had been charged with fatally shooting Michael Ramos, 42, outside an Austin apartment complex on April 24, 2020.
The killing of Mr. Ramos, who was Black and Hispanic, set off protests against police violence in Austin about a month before the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis catalyzed global demonstrations against police brutality and systemic racism.
Mr. DeSilva had severe mental illness and had been holding a knife to his neck when people in the building called 911, according to a lawsuit filed by his father that accuses Officers Taylor and Krycia of knowing that Mr. DeSilva was experiencing a mental health crisis and yet still responding “as if this were the scene of a violent crime.”
Officer Taylor’s lawyers argued that he had been protecting himself after Mr. DeSilva refused to drop the knife and came within three or four feet of the officer.
“What happened was undoubtedly tragic, particularly if it is true the man was experiencing a psychiatric episode, but in no way was this murder,” the lawyers, Ken Ervin and Doug O’Connell, said in a statement.
They accused Jose Garza, a former federal public defender who was elected Travis County district attorney in November 2020, of “waging a war on police officers.”
Mr. Garza’s office responded by noting that, since January, 12 officers whose potentially criminal conduct had been reviewed by a grand jury did not end up facing charges.
Jason English, a lawyer for Officer Krycia, said in a statement, “While we are sorry any time that a life is lost, we do believe that the actions were reasonable under the facts and justified under the law.”
Officer Krycia has been placed on paid administrative duty, Austin’s police chief, Joseph Chacon, said. Officer Taylor remains on leave without pay in connection with the killing of Mr. Ramos, he said.
“APD respects the role the grand jury holds in the criminal justice process and will continue to cooperate with the District Attorney’s Office on this case,” Chief Chacon said in a statement that noted that the officers were presumed innocent.
Lawyers for Mr. DeSilva’s father, Denzil DeSilva, said the charges would begin to help him heal.
“Due to the excessive force used by Austin Police Department officers, Denzil lost a beloved son, and the world lost a talented scientist and researcher,” the father’s lawyers said in a statement.
Mr. DeSilva grew up in Sri Lanka and had a doctorate in biomedical engineering, according to the father’s lawsuit. He also suffered from “increasingly severe mental illness” during the last years of his life, which the Austin police knew about, according to the lawsuit.
In February 2015, Mr. DeSilva grabbed a knife and threatened to hurt himself, and the Austin police responded, taking him to a hospital. In May 2019, he required “an emotionally disturbed person” intervention by the police, and on July 7, 2019, just weeks before he was fatally shot, he was committed to emergency detention, according to the lawsuit.
On the day Mr. DeSilva was killed, a neighbor called 911 to report that Mr. DeSilva was having “another mental episode” and asked that a mental health officer be dispatched, according to the lawsuit. Several others who saw Mr. DeSilva holding a knife to his neck also called 911.
Austin had a mental health officer on duty at the time, but Officers Taylor and Krycia and two other officers responded instead, the lawsuit states. They spoke to building workers, reviewed security footage and knew that Mr. DeSilva was experiencing a mental health crisis, the lawsuit states.
After taking an elevator to the fifth floor with a building worker, the officers found Mr. DeSilva in the hallway, with his back to them, looking in a mirror with a knife to his neck, according to the lawsuit.
Officers Taylor and Krycia shouted at Mr. DeSilva to drop the knife, and he lowered it. Officers then shouted, “Hey, man,” and Mr. DeSilva took one step in their direction, the lawsuit states.
Another officer fired a Taser at Mr. DeSilva, and Officers Taylor and Krycia simultaneously fired multiple shots at Mr. Desilva, striking him in the chest, the lawsuit states. Mr. DeSilva was pronounced dead at a hospital.
About nine months later, on April 24, 2020, Officer Taylor went to the parking lot of an apartment complex after a 911 caller reported that Mr. Ramos was sitting in a car with drugs and holding a gun, with a woman next to him, the police said.
After meeting outside the apartment complex, he and a number of other officers confronted Mr. Ramos.
Dashboard camera video released by the police last year shows officers repeatedly ordering Mr. Ramos to put his hands up and step out of the car. Mr. Ramos can be seen getting out with his hands up. Officers then tell him to lift up his shirt and turn around in a circle, which he did.
Mr. Ramos waves his hands and yells at the officers, asking at one point, “What’s going on?” He also yells, “I ain’t got no gun, dog!” with an expletive added.
An officer fired a bean bag at Mr. Ramos, striking him in the thigh, the authorities said. Mr. Ramos then got back into the car and drove forward as officers yelled at him not to leave.
Officer Taylor fired three rounds from his rifle at Mr. Ramos’s moving car, striking him, the police said. Emergency medical workers took Mr. Ramos to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead.
The Austin police confirmed after the shooting that Mr. Ramos had not had a gun. Mr. Ervin said that Officer Taylor planned to plead not guilty in the fatal shooting of Mr. Ramos.