AUSTIN, Texas — Two officers from the Austin Police Department have been indicted on murder charges, according to Travis County court records.
Officers Christopher Taylor and Karl Krycia had criminal charges filed against them Thursday; a warrant was returned as executed against the men on Friday, court records indicate, Law & Crime reported. It is the second murder indictment against Taylor as he already has one pending.
The deadly encounter originated when neighbors in a downtown condominium called 911 on July 31, 2019 to report that Dr. Mauris de Silva was holding a knife to his neck. Taylor and Krycia responded to the call along with a third officer.
ABC News referred to de Silva’s circumstances as a “psychotic break.”
Upon arrival, officers instructed de Silva to put down the weapon. Initially, he “lowered the knife to his side” but “advanced toward the officers,” ABC News reported. Taylor and Krycia discharged their weapons. The third officer deployed a Taser.
As a result of the shooting, de Silva later died at an area hospital, according to KXAN.
The DA’s office subsequently filed a criminal complaint against Taylor and Krycia charging them with first-degree murder and third-degree felony deadly conduct.
The men surrendered at Travis County Jail before being released on $100,000 bail. Hence, they were ordered to “surrender all firearms, including APD-issued firearms” as a condition of bail and are also “prohibited from working with law enforcement or security companies in a capacity that requires them to possess a gun,” KTBC reported.
“Taylor remains on leave without pay in connection with the (Mike) Ramos case, and Krycia was placed on paid administrative duty this week,” the news outlet continued.
The indictment in de Silva’s death is the second murder indictment for Taylor. He was previously charged with first-degree murder following the fatal shooting of Mike Ramos in April 2020, Law Officer reported.
On April 24, 2020, a 911 call came in to the Austin Police Department reporting two people doing drugs in a vehicle in a parking lot near East Oltorf Street and South Pleasant Valley Road in southeast Austin. The caller said that one man was reportedly holding a gun, KVUE reported. A gun was not found anywhere in the car, detectives said.
Police believed the vehicle could have been involved in a burglary and evading police the day before, which APD Chief Brian Manley later confirmed.
Officers, including Taylor, arrived on the scene and approached Ramos, 42. Ramos got out of the car, but officers said he did not comply with their commands. Officer Mitchell Pieper launched a less-lethal “bean bag.” Next, Ramos decided to drive away when gunfire is heard.
Ramos died a short while later. The fatal round was fired by Taylor.
The Austin Police Department reacted to the indictments in de Silva’s death with the following statement:
To protect the integrity of the criminal proceedings in this matter, APD has delayed reaching any conclusion in its administrative review of the Officers’ actions.
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. As with anyone charged with an offense, these officers are presumed innocent unless found guilty through the criminal process. In respect of their right to a fair trial, we will not be commenting further.
Ken Ervin and Doug O’Connell are the attorneys representing Taylor. They responded to the indictment by taking aim at the political agenda of Travis County District Attorney Jose Garza.
This is a statement from Officer Taylor’s attorneys: pic.twitter.com/wVq2o2z4xL
— Tony Plohetski (@tplohetski) August 27, 2021
It’s noteworthy that Austin American-Statesman reported that Garza ran for office in the wake of the Ramos shooting on a platform of police accountability. The attorneys believe he’s “waging war on police officers.”
Officer Taylor responded to a 911 call of a man armed with a knife inside a residential condominium. Officer Taylor took an elevator to the appropriate floor and, after the elevator doors opened, the man approached Officer Taylor still armed with the knife. The man refused to drop the knife as instructed. He advanced to within three to four feet of Officer Taylor before Officer Taylor had no choice but to use deadly force to protect himself. What happened was undoubtedly tragic, particularly if it is true the man was experiencing a psychiatric episode, but in no way was this murder.
We have spoken with Dr. Howard Williams, a use of force expert consulted by the DA’s Office in this case and several other police officer cases. We know Dr. Williams advised the DA’s office that Officer Taylor’s use of deadly force was appropriate and legally justified. We also know DA Garza did not let Dr. Williams testify for the grand jury. We believe this to be a continuation of DA Garza’s pattern of controlling what the grand jury sees and excluding certain evidence not calculated to produce an indictment.
Until now we have refrained from accusing District Attorney Jose Garza of waging a war on police officers. After today’s two new murder indictments, we do not know how else to characterize what he is doing.
Officer Taylor will be exonerated by a jury.
Ken Casaday, president of the Austin Police Association, appeared with Ervin and O’Connell at a press conference covered by KXAN. He backed up the defense attorneys’ slams on the DA’s office.
“Again, this is another political prosecution by DA Garza, and it’s not going to be tolerated,” Casaday said.
The DA’s office refuted the criticism in a subsequent statement:
The allegations that DA Garza, or anyone acting in his capacity, would not let Dr. Williams testify are false. The State presented a thorough and balanced grand jury presentation consistent with its obligations under article 2.01 of the Code of Criminal Procedure. Due to grand jury secrecy laws, we are prevented from disclosing information about the grand jury’s proceedings.
Garza had egg on his face in July when he announced the pending indictment against Officer Gregory Gentry of the Austin Police Department was dismissed “in the best interest of justice,” Law Officer reported.
Garza blamed the previous administration, saying an Assistant District Attorney obtained an expert opinion that had evidence, which was exculpatory to the defense. The evidence that would have benefited the accused officer wasn’t discussed with the prosecution or disclosed to the defense counsel as the case was presented to the Grand Jury in January.
A letter from Garza stated an expert concluded that Officer Gentry’s use of force was lawful.
“Upon review, we have decided that a dismissal of the indictment is the appropriate action to take in this case and best serves the interest of justice,” said Garza. “I offer my sincere apologies to Officer Gentry who undoubtedly suffered as a result of this process.”
Ervin and O’Connell were the attorneys who represented Gentry. They released the following statement in July in regards to Gentry’s case:
The only thing shocking to us about today’s announcement from DA Garza is that he is voluntarily dismissing Officer Gentry’s case. We have said all along that the indictments against our law enforcement clients – Officer Gentry, Officer Bretches, Officer Taylor, former Deputies Camden and Johnson, and former Trooper Johnston – were the result of selecting and presenting evidence to the grand jury in ways calculated to produce indictments. Today’s events confirm the one-sided and secretive nature of the grand jury process and its potential for abuse. We do not know what evidence was presented to, or withheld from, the grand jury in Officer Gentry’s case because it was not recorded. Once again we are calling on Mr. Garza to live up to his campaign promise of transparency and to record and transcribe all grand jury testimony in law enforcement cases so that this sort of abuse can be identified. Though we appreciate the dismissal of Officer Gentry’s case and the acknowledgement of impropriety in obtaining his indictment, Mr. Garza still has several more illegitimate indictments to dismiss and apologies to give.
In August, Law Officer reported the Travis County District Attorney’s Office hired additional lawyers to expand its civil rights unit, which investigates reports of officer misconduct, while its most populous city — Austin — experiences police defunding and spikes in crime.
The Council on Criminal Justice’s (CCJ) pandemic crime report recently said that 2021 has seen a 16 percent increase so far in 2021 and a 42 percent increase from 2019.
All of this is happening while Garza targets police officers.