GPS tracks men connected to Houston deputy’s death

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Investigators have linked two men accused of killing a Harris County police officer’s deputy in August to their ankle GPS monitors – devices judges have ordered them to wear for more than a year following accusations in the death of other people.

Prosecutors explained Monday how Ahsim Taylor Jr., 21, and Jayland Womack, 20, arrested Friday, were free on bail and were wearing monitors to track their whereabouts at the time of a possible road rage clash with Omar Ursin, Deputy of Precinct 3 on leave. On August 28, the two defendants were near where Ursin was shot in the face and killed while collecting food for his family.

Deputy Constable Omar Ursin

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A witness saw another vehicle driving side-by-side with Ursin’s car moments before four shots were heard, prosecutor Ryan Trask said. Ursin was hit by the gunfire and lost control of his vehicle – which went onto the sidewalk and crashed into a tree, he continued. The other vehicle turned into a nearby street.

The vehicle stopped half an hour later at a gas station near Womack’s home.

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Ursin, meanwhile, was rushed to hospital but did not survive. Authorities were unaware that Ursin was a law enforcement official until his family arrived at the hospital.

Constable Sherman Eagleton sat in the courtroom as prosecutors read the probable cause which led to the arrest of the two defendants. He was joined by Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg, who rarely sits so early in criminal proceedings. The two officials discussed the case outside the courtroom.

District Attorney Kim Ogg, right, speaks with the media in front of Harris Co. Precinct 3 Officer Sherman Eagleton, left, after Ashim Taylor Jr. and Jayland Womack appeared before Judge Denise Collins for the murder of Custody Officer Omar Ursin, during their appearance in the 263rd District Court at the Harris County Courthouse on Monday, September 12, 2022 in Houston, TX.
District Attorney Kim Ogg, right, speaks with the media in front of Harris Co. Precinct 3 Officer Sherman Eagleton, left, after Ashim Taylor Jr. and Jayland Womack appeared before Judge Denise Collins for the murder of Custody Officer Omar Ursin, during their appearance in the 263rd District Court at the Harris County Courthouse on Monday, September 12, 2022 in Houston, TX.Michael Wyke/Contributor

“He wasn’t just an employee of mine – he was a personal friend,” Eagleton said.

The district attorney’s office pointed out in court and afterwards that Taylor and Womack were on bail in connection with prior murders. Defendants are, in most cases, entitled to bail under federal and state constitutions. It may be refused in limited circumstances, such as capital cases.

Ahsim Taylor Jr.

Ahsim Taylor Jr.

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Ogg said the GPS monitors weren’t enough of a deterrent for Taylor and Womack to reoffend while on bail, going so far as to say defendants charged with violent offenses must stay in jail. Taylor, while free on bail, was at one point trying to find a job, according to her office.

“It just seems highly unlikely that someone charged with murder or capital murder could even go and get a job,” Ogg said.

Judge Denise Collins, a visiting lawyer who was among officials who lost their seats after the 2018 election, revoked and increased bail on the defendants’ previous cases – and asked both sides to return to the 263rd Court on Friday district and explain why the men should or should not be held without bond for the new charges.

“There’s no way they’ll be out of jail before Friday,” Trask said. “At the hearing, we hope the judge will understand the facts and see them for what they are, and then hold them without bond until their trial.”

Homicide Prosecutor Ryan Trask speaks to the media, next to District Attorney Kim Ogg, right, after Ashim Taylor Jr. and Jayland Womack appeared before Judge Denise Collins for the murder of Constable guard Omar Ursin, during their appearance in the 263rd District Court at the Harris County Courthouse on Monday, September 12, 2022 in Houston, TX.

Homicide Prosecutor Ryan Trask speaks to the media, next to District Attorney Kim Ogg, right, after Ashim Taylor Jr. and Jayland Womack appeared before Judge Denise Collins for the murder of Constable guard Omar Ursin, during their appearance in the 263rd District Court at the Harris County Courthouse on Monday, September 12, 2022 in Houston, TX.

Michael Wyke/Contributor

Taylor was charged with capital murder in June 2021 in the death of a man to whom he and a second defendant were selling a vehicle. A Harris County magistrate initially set bail at $220,000 for the capital murder and evidence tampering charge, but 263rd District Court Judge Amy Martin lowered the amount to $95,000. He was released on bail the same day and later released, according to court records.

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He remained free on bail for more than a year – appearing in court when warranted, including a decision made almost two weeks before the MP died. He was ordered to wear an ankle monitor and abide by a curfew from the start of his case, according to court records.

While on bail, Taylor tried to get a job at a restaurant chain in Chile, Trask said.

Taylor’s murder case is among more than 42,800 crimes pending in Harris County’s beleaguered criminal court system — more than half of which last 180 days or more, according to county records. A Houston Chronicle investigation found a growing backlog in the courts resulting from Hurricane Harvey and the pandemic and that more defendants would rack up murder charges as their time on bail lengthened.

“It takes so long in this courthouse waiting for a trial, four to five to six years in these cases,” Ogg continued. None of the defendants’ previous cases went to trial, she said.

Womack’s original murder charge, meanwhile, is older. In January 2021, he was arrested in connection with a fatal shooting during an alleged marijuana smuggling, according to court documents.

Jayland Womack

Jayland Womack

Courtesy

A magistrate ordered that he be held on $35,000 bond – which he posted that week. 208th District Court Judge Greg Glass revoked his bail last December following accusations that he was in contact with an accomplice.

Bond was raised to $75,000 – an amount Womack also paid to secure his release.

The district attorney’s call for violent offenders to stay in jail comes as Harris County Jail faces a non-compliance notice for failing to process new inmates within 48 hours. Booking delays have been attributed to the growing prison population and lack of space for defendants. The prison has recorded a population of 10,000 or more people a day since September 2 – and almost half of those defendants are charged with violent crimes.

The notice of non-compliance forced the Harris County Sheriff’s Office to come up with a plan to reduce the admissions deadline to 30 days.

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