AUSTIN, Texas - Christopher Taylor's murder trial continued Friday for day 10 of the court proceeding. Taylor is accused of murdering Michael Ramos during a police encounter in 2020.
Three Austin police officers were back on the stand Friday to testify for the second time in Officer Taylor's murder trial. This included Officer Darrell Cantu-Harkless, Officer Mitchell Pieper and Officer James Morgan. All were responding officers at the scene of the 2020 officer-involved shooting and were recalled by Taylor's defense team for additional questions.
Officer Cantu-Harkless previously testified during defense questioning that he believed Michael Ramos was headed towards him. The state pointed out Ramos seemed scared of the armed officers and questioned the officer on why he thought Ramos would drive towards them.
State: "Is that a way to get yourself shot?"
State: "Would not be an effective way of escaping?"
State: "You’re going to catch a windshield full of bullets, aren’t you?"
Cantu-Harkless: "I imagine so."
Officer James Morgan told the jury he believed Ramos and his Prius were heading towards officers.
"I thought it was gonna ram officers, sir," he said.
The defense followed up.
Defense: "Can you tell the jury why you didn’t shoot?"
Officer Morgan: "Yes, sir. So, based upon my positioning at that point, I was on the far right of where all those officers were, and I was looking at the driver’s side of that vehicle. I did not feel that I could be certain of the path of that vehicle, and did not feel that I could justify shots based off my position."
CHRISTOPHER TAYLOR MURDER TRIAL
- Defense calls back officers to testify
- State rests its case; defense calls witnesses
- Expert witness claims data shows Ramos was no threat to officers
- Lead investigator in 2020 shooting questioned by defense
- Officer's written statement read aloud in court
The defense called Katrina Ratcliff to the witness stand. This was her first time testifying as a responding officer there at the 2020 officer-involved shooting.
She told the jury she was standing behind Officer Cantu-Harkless at the time. She says they were standing closest to the Prius, and she believed the only exit out for Ramos was where they were standing.
"There was absolutely no time for me to be able to engage that vehicle with my pistol," she said. "I would have been in the line of the vehicle at that point. I had one option to choose in that very, very short second, and it was to get off the driveway, get behind a vehicle, and then to reevaluate the situation."
The state presented a video of her statement to counter that testimony, a body camera perspective of a detective with Ratcliff taking her statement. In it Ratcliff says, "Officer Cantu-Harkless and I were in a spot that we could have got run over if he were to proceed in our direction."
Officer Valarie Talvarez was the last responding officer to take the witness stand. She was asked why she did not shoot. She responded that she would have if she had a better position because she believed Ramos and his Prius were coming towards officers.
Taylor’s murder trial resumes Monday morning at 9 a.m.