Texas authorities issued an arrest warrant for an Austin police officer whose shooting of a man last year sparked protests, the Travis County district attorney announced on Thursday.
Officer Christopher Taylor faces a murder charge in the fatal shooting of Michael Ramos, District Attorney José Garza said during a press conference. The civil rights unit of the district attorney's office will head the prosecution against the officer.
Taylor was out on bond. If convicted, he could face life in prison.
"Today we have taken a significant step towards justice for the Ramos family and for our community," Garza said. "My heart continues to break for the Ramos family and we still have much work ahead of us. But we know that holding law enforcement accountable when they break the law is critical to restoring the trust of our community and to ensuring its safety."
The Austin American-Statesman and Austin ABC affiliate KVUE both reported on the warrant on Wednesday.
Under Texas law, an indictment is not public information until a person has been taken into custody, the American-Statesman noted. The Statesman also reported this was the first murder charge in connection to an excessive force case involving an Austin officer in decades.
Ramos, a 42-year-old Black and Hispanic man, was shot and killed last April after an altercation with police in an Austin apartment complex parking lot. Austin police had received reports of a person possibly involved in a drug deal with a gun.
Police said that Ramos did not follow officer orders, so an officer shot him with a bean bag ammunition, prompting him to get in a car and begin driving. Taylor then shot the moving car, striking Ramos and leading to his death, according to the newspaper.
Authorities later reported that there was no gun found near the scene. The Austin Police Department had placed Taylor on leave for the incident although he did not face a disciplinary hearing for the episode.
Cell phone footage of the incident spread on social media leading to outrage before police released an edited video of different angles of the incident in July, according to Austin ABC affiliate KVUE.
The shooting death prompted protests in the city weeks ahead of the demonstrations around the country over George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis in May.
Advocates and Ramos’s family had previously called for Taylor to be arrested and charged, and Ramos’s mother filed a lawsuit against the city, alleging it of cultivating an “institutionally racist and aggressive policing culture,” according to KVUE.