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Attorneys representing the Austin police officer accused of shooting an unarmed Michael Ramos, as well as several officers involved in use-of-force incidents with residents, say their clients committed "zero crimes" and blasted police and prosecutors for playing politics with body-cam video of the incidents.
The attorneys, Ken Erven and Doug O'Connell, strongly criticized a decision by Austin Police Chief Brian Manley on Friday to delay the release of police video of incidents during violent protests earlier this summer—in which some officers used less-lethal rounds in confrontations that sent two demonstrators to hospitals with critical injuries.
Attorneys for some of those officers, who have not been charged and are not being named publicly, said the body-cam videos would exonerate them of any wrongdoing they might stand accused of and illustrate that "leadership failures" by the APD leadership put officers "in extremely dangerous situations—that could have and should have been avoided."
"One critical factor in any analysis of the use of force during the riots is the fact that the Austin Police Department's leadership was completely unprepared for the situation," O'Connell said in an email to Austonia.
In addition to the officers involved in protests, the attorneys also represent Austin police Officer Christopher Taylor, who shot Ramos, later determined to be unarmed, while responding to a complaint about drug use. Officers have said they thought he was going to run them over in his car.
After the Travis County District Attorney's Office announced that the Ramos case would be going to the grand jury, police released the official video of that shooting. The video was going to be released in mid-June but was held up for logistical reasons until July.
On Friday, Manley delayed release of "critical incident" video in the protests, which presumably would show official video of protesters getting shot and critically wounded by less-lethal rounds fired by officers, with his office saying they were waiting on the district attorney to make its decision about whether to send the cases to the grand jury.
Neither case has actually been through a grand jury review, which will be done to determine whether charges would be filed.
"Chief Manley deciding to release video of the shooting of Mike Ramos prior to grand jury review, while simultaneously claiming he cannot release video showing officers using force against rioters because there has been no grand jury review, is complete nonsense," the attorneys' statement said.
The attorneys did not specify if they thought the video of the protests would help their clients, who they did not name. But in a letter sent to the police department, they said Manley and the DA are using the videos as a political tool.
"We know from representing Officer Taylor as well as officers involved in the riots that zero crimes were committed by any of these officers," the attorneys said. "Rather than doing what is right and announcing these findings to the public, they hide behind each other and blame a stunning election defeat to avoid further public criticism."
Manley has been criticized for officers' use of force during the Black Lives Matter protests at the end of May and in June, when protesters were sent to hospitals, the department banned less-lethal rounds during protests and members of the City Council called for Manley's resignation.
Meanwhile, District Attorney Margaret Moore, who had recently announced a decision to take the Ramos shooting to a grand jury, lost her post in a resounding mid-July primary election defeat by Jose Garza, who won 68% of the vote. Garza will face GOP nominee Martin Harry in the November election.
Shortly after her defeat, Moore announced that she would not schedule a grand jury for Ramos and instead would let the new DA oversee that and the case of Javier Ambler, who also died at the hands of police officers. Both were scheduled for grand jury hearings in August.
"The Ramos video release was never about transparency, and APD's "policy" of releasing critical incident video is a sham," the statement reads. "The real policy is to do whatever is most politically beneficial for the Chief and/or District Attorney in that moment, and today's announcement proves that."
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17 years and three medals later, Osterman's last ride with USA softball is over. What's next for Cat?
Nearly two decades after her debut with the University of Texas and 17 years after her first Olympic gold, softball icon Cat Osterman stepped off the Olympic pitcher's mound for the last time with a silver medal to take back home.
Osterman, a three-time Olympian who has been called the "Michael Jordan of softball," will officially retire from the international realm at 38 after a decorated career that included Olympic golds, years of retirement and plenty of adversity—from a worldwide pandemic to dashed gold-medal dreams.
Osterman and her crew left Tokyo on a bittersweet note on Tuesday with a silver medal in hand.
Osterman with Team USA in 2008. (Antoni Majewski/Twitter)
Osterman in the final in 2021. (Antoni Majewski/Twitter)
After a year of sparse in-person training and over a decadelong hiatus, Team USA and Osterman flew to the finals. In five games, the team beat Italy (2-0), Canada (1-0), Mexico (2-0), Australia (2-1), and Japan (2-1).
Deja vu struck in the final match. On one side, Osterman and fellow 2008 Olympic teammate Monica Abbott took the mound; on the other was the 39-year-old Yukiko Ueno, a familiar foe who helped the team beat Team USA last go-round.
"Just like 13 years ago," Ueno said in a press conference, "we were facing each other in the final."
Ueno, who had lost hopes at gold to Osterman in '04, outpitched her longtime opponent with six scoreless innings as Team USA was held to just three hits. The same team that squandered their gold-medal hopes 13 years before had done it once again.
Your Tokyo 2020 Olympic Silver Medalists 🇺🇸#TokyoOlympics | @TeamUSA pic.twitter.com/MOMNOedHUd
— USA Softball Women's National Team 🇺🇸 (@USASoftballWNT) July 27, 2021
"There's a little bit of disappointment in not bringing home the gold since that's the eye on the prize when you go over there and you know you have a shot at it," Osterman told Austonia. "But more than anything, I'm very proud of the way our team handled everything that was part of this journey and not just the six games."
It's that very loss at the 2008 Olympics that partially motivated Osterman to get back on the mound. She officially put down the glove in 2015 after six seasons with the USSSA Pride, took time with family and began coaching at Texas State University.
Osterman helped ace Randi Rupp to greatness while a coach at Texas State University. (Active Voice Health/Twitter)
She thought her Olympic endeavors were well over—until talks of reinstating softball into the Games reentered the conversation.
"It wasn't until 2016 or 2017, that it ever crossed my mind to possibly put the USA uniform on again," Osterman said. "After the World Championships in 2010, I walked away, and I thought that my career on the international stage was done. So this was a pleasant kind of new opportunity."
Three years after facing any competition, Osterman was on the field once more with world-class athletes. Some, like Osterman and Abbott, had been playing together long enough to form a formidable "Fire and Ice" duo on the mound. Others had just graduated college.
Osterman said playing with a younger generation of athletes was one of the most rewarding aspects of this year's Games.
"It can be very different when you have 24- and 38-year-olds on the same field," Osterman said. "The adversity put us in some challenging positions and we came through with flying colors. And this group will forever be special just because what we had to go through is so different."
While on the mound, Osterman's job was to give the team a calm start. Off of the field, she felt her role had much of the same effect: she knew that new Olympic feeling, and she served as a deep breath to her first-time teammates.
"There's no words to explain how nervous and excited you get knowing that the whole world can be watching," Osterman. "I think using those emotions and figuring out how to get all our butterflies lined up and going in the right direction, so that way we were all moving together, was kind of my role outside of pitching."
We've heard her retire once before, but this time Osterman said she's gone for good—even from coaching. After her final time with Team USA on Sept. 27, she plans on returning to Austin, where she'll look to work for a nonprofit.
A gold and two silvers will have to do for one of the most decorated athletes in U.S. softball history.
"To be able to say you're a three-time Olympic medalist is a pretty special deal, right?" Osterman. "I played for a long time. But those are the pinnacle, in my mind, and kind of what elicits the dream to keep playing."
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Hospitals are facing a "significant" increase in admissions of pregnant women due to COVID-19 complications, Austin-Travis County health officials say, revealing what could be a long-term side effect of the virus.
Austin-Travis County Health Authority Dr. Desmar Walkes met with three maternal medicine specialists on Monday morning to warn of yet another COVID-19 Delta variant concern: severe cases of the disease affecting unvaccinated mothers-to-be.
The doctors said unvaccinated pregnant women face an increased risk of preterm births, long-term effects, preeclampsia, ICU stays, stillbirths, being put on life support and even death if they are unvaccinated.
"We are really concerned that we are not getting that population of folks to hear this message of the safety of vaccines, so today we're assembled, one and all to say, wear a mask and please get vaccinated," Walkes said. "Vaccinations are the way to prevent severe disease and hospitalizations and death."
Medical Director of Maternal Fetal Medicine at St. David's Women's Center of Texas Dr. Kimberly DeStefano said 95% of pregnant women admitted with COVID-19 are unvaccinated, stressing that all pregnant and lactating women should get the vaccine not only to protect themselves but to protect their babies from infection, which can be passed through breastmilk or birth.
"We know that the earlier in pregnancy you are vaccinated, the more antibodies are present at the time of birth for the infant," DeStefano said. "This is something that's very important, both during the pregnancy and postpartum."
Catching COVID-19 while pregnant can cause adverse effects on the baby, particularly because it increases the risk of preterm births. Baylor Scott & White Maternal Obstetrics Chief of Maternal Medicine Dr. Jessica Ehrig, said that preterm births are one of the "biggest impacts" on childhood development.
"We know that (preterm births) can have long-term effects depending on how early a baby's born," Ehrig said. "It increases the risk for long term respiratory issues, for blindness sometimes (and) for neurologic development delays."
Since mid-July, COVID-19 hospitalizations have been on a steep rise that sent the city back to recommending Stage 4 guidelines. As the seven-day rolling average of hospitalizations surpassed 50 admissions, Stage 5 guidelines could be on the horizon. The city reported 54 new admissions and 546 total new cases on Friday.
Delta is more contagious than chickenpox, Walkes said, and even vaccinated individuals can catch and spread the virus without symptoms. The group of doctors asked everyone, especially pregnant women, to mask while in public as local hospitals pass the Stage 5 threshold.
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