Update (September 28, 2020): Williamson County Sheriff Robert Chody has faced endless criticism for months due to his involvement in the 2019 killing of Javier Ambler who died after police tased him to death for not dimming his headlights.
The 40-year-old was killed while cameras for the A&E show Live PD rolled, but producers for the show later controversially said the footage had been deleted.
On Monday, a Williamson County jury indicted Chody on charges of evidence tampering for allegedly destroying the footage caught by the film crew of Ambler’s death, according to The Statesman.
1st image is of Javier Ambler. He was a Dad, a brother, a son, a co-worker and a friend.
— ????????????????JAX | Leg over & ride FFS (@KelseyOnBoard) September 28, 2020
The news outlet partnered with KVUE-TV to reveal more details about Ambler’s death. A week later, Williamson County District Attorney Shawn Dick and Travis County District Attorney Margaret Moore decided to investigate the claim that A&E deleted footage of the killing.
In addition to indicting Chody, Williamson County general counsel Jason Nassour was also indicted for tampering with evidence related to Ambler’s death. The newspaper noted that Chody turned himself in on Monday to the same jail he oversees as county sheriff.
Both men are facing between two and 10 years in prison if convicted.
Ambler’s case has slowly caused more outrage as more people found out about the circumstances around his death. Data has shown that officers within the local sheriff’s department began taking more chances and acting more recklessly once the Live PD cameras were around.
They chased Ambler for nearly 30 minutes through multiple counties over allegations that he did not dim the lights of his Honda Pilot. He said he had a heart condition and begged for his life as police repeatedly tased him until his heart stopped.
The camera crews were filming as Deputies J.J. Johnson and Zach Camden tased Ambler to death, and the only reason the public knows what happened is because of the release of bodycam footage.
There have been conflicting statements over the video since Ambler was killed. According to The Statesman, Live PD host Dan Abrams said the show deleted the footage after Chody told them the investigation into Ambler’s death was finished.
But Chody has repeatedly refuted those statements, telling investigators that he knew nothing about the footage at all.
Original (June 9, 2020): As millions nationwide continue protesting police brutality in the wake of George Floyd's killing at the hands of the Minneapolis Police Department, an investigation has reopened for a man who suffered a similar fate more than a year earlier.
According to the Austin American-Statesman, Javier Ambler was headed home after a poker game on March 28, 2019. A sheriff's deputy from Williamson County noticed the 40-year-old neglected to dim the headlights of his Honda Pilot. Per the outlet, Ambler died in police custody after officers used Tasers on him four times. Prior to the final time he was tased, Ambler pleaded with the officers to save him, the American-Statesman reported.
"I have congestive heart failure,” Ambler said. “I have congestive heart failure. I can’t breathe."
The time between officers first identifying Ambler and the moment he passed was approximately 28 minutes, according to the American-Statesman. The former postal service employee's death was ruled a homicide, which authorities say encompasses "justifiable homicide." Regardless of what they determined, Ambler's family still wants answers.
"What happened to my son?” Maritza, Ambler's mother, told KVUE. “He’s dead. How? I can’t have any closure because I need to know."
What makes the incident even more disturbing is that Javier's entire arrest and subsequent death were filmed for an upcoming episode of the A&E reality program Live PD, leading the victim's family and investigators to question whether the outcome could have been avoided if officers weren't violent toward Javier for the sake of sensational television.
"It is of very serious concern to any of us who are in law enforcement that the decision to engage in that chase was driven by more of a need to provide entertainment than to keep Williamson County citizens safe,” Travis County District Attorney Margaret Moore said.
As of Monday, Live PD has not responded to inquires about a statement, and footage captured on that night has not aired. According to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, A&E and Paramount Networks, the channels that house Live PD and Cops, respectively, will stop playing police-themed reality television programs.
Javier's final words are painfully reminiscent of Floyd's killing, during which "I can't breathe" were also among the 46-year-old's last words. They were also the last words said by Manuel Ellis, a 33-year-old Washington man who, in March of this year, died in police custody just like Javier and Floyd.