An Austin police officer who is already facing murder charges for the April 2020 death of a black and Hispanic man is now facing additional murder charges in the killing of an Asian man nine months earlier.
Christopher Taylor, 29, and Karl Krycia, 28, were both charged Friday with first-degree murder and a third-degree felony count of deadly conduct in the fatal shooting of Navy veteran Mauris DeSilva, 46, who was reportedly suffering from a mental health crisis when he was killed.
Bail was set at $100,000 each, and both officers are free on their own recognizance and are on leave, according to the Associated Press.
The charges come five months after Taylor had been charged with fatally shooting Michael Ramos, 42, outside an Austin apartment complex on April 24, 2020. The death sparked widespread protests against police brutality in the city, nearly one month before the death of George Floyd.
‘The fact that Officer Taylor was involved in two shootings in less than a year killing two people, I just couldn’t believe that he was back out on the street and doing that,’ Brad Vinson, an attorney for DeSilva’s family told FOX 7 after Ramos’ death.
Austin Police Officers Christopher Taylor (left) and Karl Krycia (right) were charged Friday with first-degree murder and a third-degree felony count of deadly conduct in the fatal shooting of Navy vet Mauris DeSilva, 46. The indictment came five months after Taylor had been charged with fatally shooting Michael Ramos outside an Austin apartment complex
DeSilva was reportedly suffering from a mental health crisis when the two officers shot and killed him on July 31, 2019
DeSilva, who grew up in Sri Lanka, reportedly had severe mental illness, and had been holding a knife to his neck and banging loudly on emergency exit doors when people in his condominium complex called 911 on July 31, 2019.
A lawsuit filed by his father, Denzil DeSilva, claims Taylor and Krycia knew he was experiencing a mental health crisis, but still responded ‘as if this were the scene of a violent crime,’ according to the New York Times.
Taylor’s lawyers, though, argue he was protecting himself after DeSilva refused to drop the knife and came within three to four feet of the officer.
‘What happened was undoubtedly tragic, particularly if it is true the man was experiencing a psychiatric episode, but in no way was this murder,’ his lawyers, Ken Ervin and Doug O’Connell, said in a statement.
They accused Travis County District Attorney Jose Garza of refusing to let a use-of-force expert testify before the grand jury, and claimed he is ‘waging a war on police officers.’
‘Until now we have refrained from accusing District Attorney Jose Garza of waging a war on police officers,’ they wrote. ‘After today’s two new murder indictments, we do not know how else to characterize what he is doing.’
Garza’s office responded by saying that since January, 12 officers whose potential criminal conduct had been reviewed by a grand jury did not end up facing charges.
Jason English, a lawyer for Krycia, said in a statement to the Times: ‘While we are sorry any time that a life is lost, we do believe that the actions were reasonable under the facts and justified under the law.’
Krycia has been placed on paid administrative leave, while Taylor remains on leave without pay as the Ramos case goes to court.
‘APD respects the role the grand jury holds in the criminal justice process, and we will continue to cooperate with the District Attorney’s Office on this case,’ Police Chief Joseph Chacon said in a 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.’
The two officers were previously named employees of the week for their arrest of a stabbing suspect in March 2019 – just a few months before DeSilva’s death.
Krycia and Taylor had previously been named Employees of the Week for bringing a stabbing suspect into custody in March 2019
In a statement, Police Chief Joseph Chacon said the Austin Police Department ‘respects the role the grand jury holds in the criminal justice process,’ and has ‘delayed reaching any conclusion in its administrative review of the officers’ actions’
Lawyers for Denzil said charges against the police would help him heal.
‘Due to the excessive force by Austin Police Department officers, Denzil lost a beloved son, and the world lost a talented scientist and researcher,’ they said.
DeSilva grew up in Sri Lanka and obtained his PhD in biomedical and chemical engineering from the University of Minnesota, according to his obituary.
He completed his post graduate at Bascom Palmer Eye Hospital in Florida, and later joined the Naval Base at Great Lakes, Chicago.
He was posted to the Navy medical research unit in San Antonio and worked as a scientist until the time of his death, forming his own company 3D Printing and Advanced Robotics Solutions to create new medical technology using nanotechnology.
Eventually, the business was expanded throughout the world.
Mauris DeSilva obtained his PhD in biomedical and chemical engineering from the University of Minnesota and started his own medical technology company
But over time, his father said, he started to suffer from ‘increasingly severe mental illness,’ which Denzil said, the police knew about.
‘The city of Austin has a long history of underfunding mental health officers in the police department,’ Denzil’s lawyers told KUT ‘The city’s failure to establish an appropriate mental health crisis response directly contributed to Dr. DeSilva’s death.’
According to his lawsuit, DeSilva previously grabbed a knife and threatened to hurt himself in February 2015, when police responded and brought him to a hospital.
By May 2019, the lawsuit states, he required ‘an emotionally disturbed person’ intervention by the Austin Police Department, and on July 7, 2019 – just a few weeks before his death – DeSilva was committed to emergency detention.
On the day he was killed, the lawsuit claims, a neighbor reported to the police he was ‘having another mental episode.’
The police department had a mental health officer on duty at the time, according to the lawsuit, but Taylor and Krycia, along with two other officers, responded to the scene instead.
They spoke to building workers, reviewed security footage and reportedly knew DeSilva was experiencing a mental health crisis when they took the elevator to the fifth floor with a building worker and found him with his back to them, looking in a mirror with a knife to his neck.
Taylor and Krycia reportedly shouted at DeSilva to lower it, which he did, then shouted, ‘Hey man’ at DeSilva prompting him to take a step in their direction.
At that point another officer on the scene fired a Taser at DeSilva and Taylor and Krycia simultaneously fired their guns, striking DeSilva in the chest.
He was pronounced dead at a local hospital.
Racial justice group Austin Justice Coalition argued Taylor should have taken more time to de-escalate the situation.
‘This case has waited far too long for justice,’ said Sukyi McMahon, the group’s senior policy director. ‘Dr. DeSilva was killed more than two years ago and the case languished until Garza started to bring police cases to the grand jury.
Dashcam footage shows officers telling Michael Ramos, 42, to get out of his car, lift up his shirt and turn around, which he did
Ramos was shot and killed by Taylor as he drove away on April 24, 2020
The death sparked widespread protests against police brutality in the city
A few months later, on April 24, 2020, Taylor went to the parking lot of an apartment complex after a 911 call asserted Ramos was sitting in a car with drugs and holding a gun while a woman sat next to him.
Dashcam footage released by the Austin Police Department last year showed officers responding to the scene, repeatedly asking Ramos to get out of his car and put his arms up, which he did.
The officers then told him to lift up his shirt and turn around, and Ramos once again complied – asking at one point ‘What’s going on’ and yelling ‘I ain’t got no gun, dog.’
One of the officers then fired a bean bag at Ramos, striking him in the thigh.
Ramos then returned to his car and drove away as the officers asked him not to leave.
Taylor then fired three rounds at Ramos’ car, striking him.
Emergency medical services workers took him to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead.
Shortly afterwards, the Austin Police Department confirmed he did not have a gun at the time he was shot and killed.
Vinson, the DeSilva family’s lawyer, said Taylor should not have been on the force at the time, as two days before Ramos was killed, he had requested evidence from the day DeSilva was killed, but was denied because the Austin Police Department said they were still investigating the case.
‘No one can just sit on that,’ Vinson said. ‘I mean, how can they say that the investigation is still pending when the main officer involved is back out on the street with a gun in his hand shooting and killing Mike Ramos.’
Taylor’s lawyer, Ken Ervin, said Taylor plans to plead not guilty in Ramos’ death.