Lawyer for 13-year-old fatally shot by San Antonio cop says body-cam shows the killing was unjustified

High-profile civil rights attorney Lee Merritt said the officer involved in the shooting also fatally shot another suspect during his two years on the force.

click to enlarge Civil rights attorney Lee Merritt (second from left) approaches Monday's press conference. - MICHAEL KARLIS
Michael Karlis
Civil rights attorney Lee Merritt (second from left) approaches Monday's press conference.
High-profile civil rights attorney Lee Merritt said redacted body-cam footage makes it clear that a San Antonio police officer's recent fatal shooting of a 13-year-old suspect was unjustified.

The June 3 shooting also marked the second time in two years that the officer in question, Stephen Ramos — a two-year veteran of the San Antonio Police Department — has been involved in a fatal shooting, Merritt said Monday in front of Public Safety Headquarters.

The Current first reached out to SAPD last Wednesday to confirm whether the officer involved in the early June incident was the same Officer Stephen Ramos who reportedly fatally shot a suspect in March 2021. Public affairs officials didn't respond to the inquiry.

"After reviewing the evidence, I still see no justification for the use of force," Merritt said of the shooting of 13-year-old Andre "AJ" Hernandez. "So, this is what I expected — an unjustified shooting."

In recent years, Merritt has represented the families of George Floyd, the 46-year-old man killed when a Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck, and Botham Jean, a 26-year-old man fatally shot in his own apartment by a Dallas police officer.

Ramos shot the youth after he allegedly T-boned a police cruiser during an early-morning police call. According to police, Ramos discharged his weapon because he worried a fellow officer was in danger of injury.

However, Merritt said he watched body-cam footage from three responding officers and disputes claims by SAPD that the police cruiser was T-boned.

"AJ's car did not ram into the vehicle in reverse," Merritt said.

According to Merritt, the stolen Toyota Camry driven by Hernandez did come into contact with an SAPD Chevrolet Tahoe cruiser. He said police cornered Hernandez's vehicle  in a "box-in situation."

"I saw the vehicles come into contact at a very low rate of speed," he said. "And I don't imagine there would have been significant damage."

Jesse Hernandez, a neighbor who witnessed the shooting, last week told the Express-News he saw "little to no damage" to the police cruiser.

At the press conference, Merritt didn't offer details about the prior shooting he alleged Ramos was involved in.

However, a KSAT story from last year reported that an SAPD officer named Stephen Ramos fatally shot John Pena Montez in March of last year after the 57-year-old military veteran allegedly lunged at the officer with a knife. After reviewing footage from that incident, Montez's family members disputed police claims that Montez ever lunged.

The KSAT story, which aired in May 2021, identified Ramos as a one-year force veteran at the time of the shooting.

"This officer had every chance to choose to deescalate the situation," Merritt said Ramos' involvement in the Hernandez shooting. "More importantly, my understanding is this officer is in his second year. This is his second officer-involved shooting. Most officers go through their entire careers without using force. This officer was quick on the trigger in this case."

Merritt said that he and Hernandez's family will hold another press conference Tuesday to discuss the body-cam footage in more detail. As of Monday afternoon, the attorney hadn't finalized details for the gathering.

Merritt ran for Texas Attorney General in this year's Democratic primary but failed to win the nomination.

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