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2 Texas Deputies Indicted For Death Of Javier Ambler On ‘Live PD’

Austin, TX – A Travis County grand jury on Monday indicted two former Williamson County sheriff’s deputies in connection with the death of 40-year-old Javier Ambler in 2019 while A&E’s “Live PD” was filming.

The incident occurred on March 28, 2019 when Big Fish Entertainment was filming “Live PD” and riding along with Williamson County Sheriff’s Deputies J.J. Johnson and Zach Camden, the Austin American-Statesman reported.

Deputy Johnson tried to stop Ambler for having failed to dim his headlights but the he fled, and led police on a 22-minute chase into Travis County.

Ambler struck several stationary objects with his SUV before crashing it in North Austin, the Austin American-Statesman reported.

Deputies Johnson and Camden struggled to take Ambler into custody once he was out of the wrecked SUV.

The deputies Tased Ambler a total of four times as they struggled with him, the Austin American-Statesman reported.

The bodycam video showed Ambler told the deputies multiple times that he couldn’t breathe while lying on his stomach and attempted to struggle to his knees.

He told the deputies he suffered from cardiac problems and begged for help before he lost consciousness, the video showed.

The death in custody report filed with the Texas Attorney General’s Office said Ambler hadn’t assaulted, or tried to assault, the arresting deputies, the Austin American-Statesman reported.

The report that was required to be filed with the state said Ambler hadn’t verbally threatened others or attempted to get control of any officers’ weapon during his arrest.

The medical examiner had ruled Ambler’s death was a homicide but noted that it could have been “justifiable,” the Austin American-Statesman reported.

Ambler’s autopsy report showed that he died from congestive heart failure and hypertensive cardiovascular disease associated with morbid obesity “in combination with forcible restraint.”

An internal investigation conducted by the Williamson County Sheriff’s Office determined that Deputies Johnson and Camden hadn’t violated any sheriff’s department policies during the incident, the Austin American-Statesman reported.

Investigators from the district attorney’s offices in Williamson and Travis counties said tried unsuccessfully to obtain the raw footage of the arrest from “Live PD” producers but were unsuccessful.

Big Fish Entertainment claimed the footage had been deleted after then-Williamson County Sheriff Robert Chody told them the investigation had been concluded, the Austin American-Statesman reported.

And so Williamson County District Attorney Shawn Dick opened an evidence tampering investigation.

Williamson County lawmakers pulled the plug on the sheriff’s department’s participation in “Live PD” shortly thereafter.

Investigators from both Travis and Williamson counties complained that now-former Sheriff Chody stonewalled them and refused to cooperate, the Austin American-Statesman reported.

The former sheriff has disputed those claims.

He was indicted, along with Williamson County General Counsel Jason Nassour, in September, the Austin American-Statesman reported.

Prosecutors have not said what actions they believed Sheriff Chody and Nassour took immediately following Ambler’s death but have said both men were on the scene.

Newly-elected Travis County District Attorney Jose Garza ran his campaign on a police accountability platform and promised to make Ambler’s death a high priority if he was elected, the Austin American-Statesman reported.

Authorities and Ambler’s family have said they believed Sheriff Chody and “Live PD” encouraged deputies to forsake good policing for the sake of dramatic television.

The grand jury brought a manslaughter indictment for both Deputy Johnson and Deputy Camden on March 29, the Austin American-Statesman reported.

The indictment was not made public until after both deputies had turned themselves in to the Travis County Jail on March 30.

“With these indictments, we have taken another critical step towards justice for the Ambler family and for our community,” Garza said in a statement. “While we can never take away the pain of the Ambler family, the grand jury has sent a clear message that no one is above the law.”

Written by
Sandy Malone

Managing Editor - Twitter/@SandyMalone_ - Prior to joining The Police Tribune, Sandy wrote the Politics.Net column for the Wall Street Journal and was managing editor of Campaigns & Elections magazine. More recently, she was an internationally-syndicated columnist for Conde Nast (BRIDES), The Huffington Post, and Monsters and Critics. Sandy is married to a retired police captain and former SWAT commander.

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Written by Sandy Malone

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