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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If you are a committed, grunge-wearing resident of the Pacific Northwest, it is easy–almost automatic–to look at Texas as an extraordinarily dry, hot and culturally oppressive place that is better to avoid, especially in the summer. Our two granddaughters live with their parents in Portland.
Recently we decided to take the older girl, who is 15, to Dallas. Setting aside the summer heat, a Portlander can adjust to the vibes of Austin without effort. So let’s take Texas with all of its excesses straight up. Dallas, here we come.
Our 15-year-old granddaughter and her sister, 12, have spent summer weeks with us, usually separately so that we could better get to know each individually. In visits focused on Austin and Port Aransas, the girls seemed to be developing an affection for Texas.
Houston and Dallas are two great American cities, the 4th and 9th largest, each loaded with cultural treasures, each standing in glittering and starchy contrast to Austin’s more louche, T-shirts and shorts ways.
Three hours up I-35, Dallas loomed before us as a set of gray skyscrapers in a filmy haze, accessed only through a concrete mixmaster of freeways, ramps and exits. I drove with false confidence. Be calm, I said to myself, it will all end in 10 minutes under the hotel entrance canopy. And it did.
The pool at the Crescent Court Hotel in Dallas. (Crescent Court Hotel)
We stayed three nights at the Crescent Court Hotel ($622 a night for two queens), a high-end hotel in Uptown, patronized by women in white blazers, business people in suits, and tall, lean professional athletes, their shiny Escalades and Corvettes darting in and out, and other celebrities like Bill Barr, the former attorney general who shoe-horned his ample self into a Toyota.
Each morning as I walked to Whole Foods for a cappuccino, a fellow identified by a bellman as Billy the Oilman arrived in his Rolls Royce Phantom. Where does he park? “Wherever he wants to. He likes the Starbucks here.”
We garaged our more modest set of wheels for the visit. We were chauffeured for tips by Matt Cooney and Alfonza “The Rev” Scott in the hotel’s black Audi sedan. They drove us to museums, restaurants and past the enclaves of the rich and famous. In Highland Park, The Rev pointed out the homes of the Dallas Cowboys' Jerry Jones and Troy Aikman along with the family compound of the Hunts, oil and gas tycoons.
The Dallas Museum of Art’s “Cartier and Islam” exhibit (until Sept. 18) attracted an older crowd; the nearby Perot Museum of Nature and Science was a powerful whirlpool of kids’ groups ricocheting from the Tyrannosaurus Rex to the oil fracking exhibit. Watch your shins.
A Geogia O'Keeffe oil painting called "Ranchos Church, New Mexico" at the Amon Carter Museum of Modern Art. (Rich Oppel)
For us, the best museum was the Amon Carter Museum of Modern Art in Fort Worth, a 50-minute, madcap drive away via a 75 mph toll lane along I-30. Don’t try it during rush hour. The Carter has an exquisite collection of Remington paintings and sculptures and an excellent array of 19th and 20th-century paintings as well. Pick one museum? The Amon Carter. Peaceful, beautiful, uncrowded, free admission and small enough to manage in two hours.
The Fort Worth Stockyards, a place of history (with a dab of schmaltz), fun and good shopping, filled one of our mornings. The 98 acres brand the city as Cowboy Town, with a rodeo and a twice-daily (11:30 a.m. and 4 p.m.) cattle drive. We shopped for boots, drank coffee and watched the “herd” of 18 longhorns. So languid was their progress that if this were a real market drive the beef would have been very tough and leathery before it hit the steakhouse dinner plate.
The cattle drive at the Fort Worth Stockyards. (Rich Oppel)
But we could identify: the temperature was 97. “I saw a dog chasing a cat today,” said the emcee, deploying a very old joke. “It was so hot that both were walking.”
With limited time, we chose three very different restaurants:
- Nobu, in the Crescent Court Hotel; Jia, a modern Chinese restaurant in Highland Park; and Joe T. Garcia’s in Fort Worth. Nobu’s exotic Japanese menu set us back $480, with tip, for four (we had a guest), but it was worth it.
- Jia was an ordinary suburban strip mall restaurant, but with good food and a reasonable tab of $110 for four.
- Joe T.’s is an 85-year-old Fort Worth institution (think Matt’s El Rancho but larger), a fine Mexican restaurant where a meal with two drinks was $115.
Sushi at high-end restaurant Nobu. (Crescent Hotel)
It was all a splurge for a grandchild’s visit. Now we will get back to our ordinary road trips of Hampton Inns, where a room rate is closer to the Crescent Court’s overnight parking rate of $52. And to corner cafes in small towns.
Did Dallas change our 15-year-old’s view of Texas? “Yes. I think it’s a lot cooler than I did. The fashion, the food.” So, not only Austin is cool. Take Texas as a whole. It’s a big, complex, diverse and wonderful state.
Giga Texas, the massive Tesla factory in southeast Travis County is getting even bigger.
The company filed with the city of Austin this week to expand its headquarters with a new 500,000-square-foot building. The permit application notes “GA 2 and 3 expansion,” which indicates the company will make two general assembly lines in the building.
More details about the plans for the building are unclear. The gigafactory has been focused on Model Y production since it opened in April, but the company is also aiming for Cybertruck production to kick off in mid-2023.
While there is room for expansion on the 3.3 square miles of land Tesla has, this move comes after CEO Elon Musk’s recent comments about the state of the economy and its impact on Tesla.
In a May interview with Tesla Owners Silicon Valley, Musk said the gigafactories in Berlin and Austin are “gigantic money furnaces” and said Giga Texas had manufactured only a small number of cars.
And in June, Musk sent a company wide email saying Tesla will be reducing salaried headcount by 10%, then later tweeted salaried headcount should be fairly flat.
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