SAN ANTONIO — An officer with the San Antonio Police Department will not be charged with wrongdoing after fatally shooting a teen boy on the south side last summer, an incident which sparked protests and renewed calls for police accountability.
According to a press release from the Bexar County district attorney’s office, a grand jury’s review of the early-morning June 3 shooting – which unfolded as officers were responding to a shots fired call along War Cloud – has concluded after they decided not to indict Stephen Ramos.
“The family’s very frustrated,” said civil rights attorney Lee Merritt, who is representing the family of 13-year-old AJ Hernandez and says they’re disappointed in the grand jury’s decision.
Authorities said Ramos fired a single shot at AJ after he allegedly rammed a stolen vehicle into a police cruiser, fearing he would hit a fellow officer. AJ later died at a hospital, and two other minors inside the car were not hurt.
“There was another police vehicle coming in the opposite direction. The officer had gotten out of the car just prior to the police vehicle being T-boned, and he fired into the red vehicle striking the driver,” SAPD Chief William McManus said the night of the shooting.
But relatives of AJ have disputed statements from police, saying they conflict with accounts from those at the scene. The family hired Merritt to represent them in the aftermath of the shooting, and pushed for Ramos to be charged with murder.
“Those cars were never going more than five miles per hour and AJ Hernandez never represented a deadly threat to anyone,” Merritt said.
He alleges Ramos didn’t give a verbal warning before firing. In a statement provided Friday, Merritt said the county “has done far too little to ensure accountability for brutal police officers.”
“The use of deadly force on the unarmed minor did not only violate departmental policy and best practices in policing across the country, but it broke the law,” the statement reads. “Bexar County prosecutors have repeatedly sent the message to police officers in San Antonio that they are above the law.”
Merritt added the family now plans to pursue a federal civil rights lawsuit, and that they have petitioned for Ramos to be potentially prosecuted at the federal level.
“This officer has killed two human beings, he has no business in the profession of policing,” Merritt said.
Ramos was briefly placed on administrative duty after the shooting, per SAPD protocol. He has been with the department since 2019 and remains on the force as of Thursday, according to officials.
“There were no administrative policies violated in either shooting and both shootings were cleared by the DA’S office,” McManus says.
Ramos will be back on street patrol, but an SAPD spokesperson for the department said he returned to full duty on Jan. 23.
“Our system of justice is based on citizen input, yet nothing can repair the pain and loss that AJ Hernandez’s family has endured,” District Attorney Joe Gonzales is quoted as saying in his office’s release. “A young boy was tragically lost on that day and we know that no mother should ever have to bury their child.”