Two deputies indicted for manslaughter in death of Javier Ambler who was repeatedly tased
Two Texas sheriff’s deputies were charged with manslaughter for the death of Javier Ambler, 40, a black man who was repeatedly tased while his traffic stop was filmed for Live PD.
Zachary Camden and James Johnson, former Williamson County Sheriff’s Office deputies, were indicted by a grand jury on Tuesday, Travis County District Attorney Jose Garzón announced in a press release.
The court set a $150,000 bail for each of them and prohibited them from working in law enforcement agencies or security companies.
Javier Ambler was driving home from playing poker on March 28, 2019, when he failed to dim the headlights of his SUV to oncoming traffic
Former Williamson County Sheriff’s Deputies James Johnson left, and Zachary Camden have been indicted on manslaughter charges
The same grand jury heard evidence related to Austin Police Department Officer Michael Nissen’s involvement in the incident but chose not to indict him.
‘With these indictments, we have taken another critical step towards justice for the Ambler family and for our community,’ Garzón said in the release.
‘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.’
Garzón warned that ‘some will inevitably seek to undermine the judgement of the grand jury in their own self-interest’ while upholding the value of a grand jury.
‘A grand jury is an independent group of representatives of the community, sworn in to uphold their duties, and a critical part of society that enables the public to assess the evidence and participate in the administration of justice,’ Garzón said.
‘We thank the jury that rendered this decision for their service to justice.’
Lawyers for the two former deputies quickly posted a statement on Twitter lambasting the District Attorney for allegedly being politically motivated.
‘Continuing to follow through on his political talking point, newly elected DA Garzón has racked up two more indictments against law enforcement officers who were previously cleared independent criminal and administrative investigations,’ the lawyers wrote.
Attorneys Ken Ervin and Doug O’Connell also claimed that their clients were not invited to testify by prosecutors while providing their own narrative for the March 2019 traffic stop.
‘Contrary to widespread media characterizations, Mr. Ambler was not pursued for failing to dim his headlights. He was pursued for the felony offense of evading arrest in a vehicle,’ the lawyers wrote in their statement.
Travis County District Attorney Jose Garzón announced on Twitter that two former deputies had been indicted
Lawyers for the two former deputies quickly posted a statement on Twitter lambasting the District Attorney for allegedly being politically motivated
The lawyers claimed that during the car chase, which allegedly lasted more than 22 minutes, Ambler had crashed through a homeowner’s fence before his ‘fifth and final collision disabled his vehicle.’
‘Shortly thereafter, Mr. Ambler died because of congestive heart failure, hypertensive cardiovascular disease associated with morbid obesity, and lymphocytic myocarditis,’ the lawyers said.
‘Mr. Ambler’s physical exertion in resisting the three officers it took to get him into handcuffs no doubt contributed to his medical emergency, but Mr. Johnson and Mr. Camden are neither morally nor legally responsible for his death.’
The lawyers said they are requesting a trial ‘as soon as possible’ for their clients ‘where we can ensure politics, campaign promises, and sensationalized media portrayals will not distort the truth of what occurred.’
Body camera footage released in June showed Ambler telling deputies ‘I can’t breathe’ and that he has congestive heart failure as they deploy Tasers on him four times
Deputies performed CPR on Ambler (pictured) until medical personnel arrived later and took over. He died at hour later
In October, it was revealed that Ambler’s family had filed a lawsuit against Williamson County during the filming of the cop reality TV show.
The deputies pursued the father-of-two for 22 minutes into downtown Austin in a police chase that was captured on camera for an episode of A&E network’s Live PD.
Police body camera video of Ambler’s death shows the gasping 400lb-man telling the deputies that he wants to comply with their demands but that he can´t because he has congestive heart failure.
‘I am not resisting,’ Ambler cries. ‘Sir, I can’t breathe. … Please. … Please.’
He was pronounced dead an hour later.
Internal Affairs investigators with the Williamson County Sheriff’s Office determined that Johnson and Camden didn’t violate pursuit or use-of-force policies.
Javier Ambler was driving home from playing poker on March 28, 2019, when he failed to dim the headlights of his SUV
Their report didn’t indicate whether the deputies were disciplined or forced to take leave.
Ambler’s death was ruled a homicide, according to the report made to the state attorney militar’s office, which noted it could have been ‘justifiable.’
In a wrongful death lawsuit filed in the Película del Oeste District of Texas, Ambler’s parents claimed cops had used excessive force during their son’s arrest to ‘produce more ‘entertaining’ content’ for the show.
The complaint, obtained by DailyMail.com, also accused former Williamson County Sheriff Robert Chody of encouraging officers to engage in ‘dangerous’ police tactics for the sake of exciting television, and rewarding officers ‘who had ‘good’ uses of force’.
‘If Live PD producers considered a department ‘boring,’ its activities would not be broadcast. Thus, Chody prioritized producing ‘exciting’ content for Live PD over the health and safety of the County’s citizens,’ the complaint states.
The lawsuit came nearly a month after Chody was indicted on charges of destroying or concealing video in an investigation into Ambler’s death.
A&E has said its video never aired because of a policy against showing a death, and it did not keep the footage after it was informed that the initial investigation had closed.
Former Williamson County Sheriff Robert Chody (pictured) was accused of destroying video evidence relating to the investigation
Chody is accused of encouraging offices to use dangerous tactics for the sake ‘exciting’ television, the wrongful death lawsuit claims. A lawsuit points to a number of tweets Chody has posted promoting the now-canceled show
The complaint also includes earlier claims from two former employees of the sheriff’s office who said leaders had rewarded them with steakhouse gift cards when they used force on the job.
‘Officers who received gift cards were also awarded the title ‘WilCo Badass’. This practice encouraged officers to use force more frequently, to ‘win’ more gift cards, to be ‘WilCo Badass,’ and to appear on Live PD,’ the suit states.
‘One of the rare Williamson County officers who was asked to resign after he used excessive force expressed surprise, saying that he thought his use of force would have earned him a gift card rather than a requested resignation.’
The complaint also noted how police chases in Williamson County had increased by 54 per cent in the year that Live PD began partnering with the department.
And approximately 60 percent of those pursuits began due to a trivial traffic infraction, like failing to signal, expired license plates, or failure to dim headlights, according to the lawsuit.
‘Sheriff Chody seeks social media and TV exposure like a moth to a light bulb – and he’s flown out of his job description to get back on TV,’ the complaint stated.
The booking photo posted by the jail shows Chody wearing a suit and a smile, standing in front of the Williamson County Sheriff’s Office logo.
An autopsy revealed that Ambler died in a homicide with congestive heart failure and hypertensive cardiovascular disease linked with morbid obesity ‘in combination with forcible restraint’
He was accused of illegally destroying raw video and audio recordings of Ambler’ arrest captured during the filming of the show.
According to court documents, Chody destroyed the recordings ‘with the intent to impair their availability as evidence in the investigation.’
Last month, the Williamson County Commissioner’s Court – the restringido governing body – issued its Étnico Profiling Report, which is required under the state’s Sandra Bland Act.
The report found that: ‘A higher 28 percentage of blacks and American Indians came in contact with the Sheriff’s Office deputies than the percentage of black and American Indian households in Williamson County that claimed, in the 2010 census, to have access to vehicles.’
The Commissioner’s Court found that an analysis of traffic stop data showed that most of searches did not produce contraband, ‘which is consistent with law enforcement trends.’
‘It is very difficult to determine if individual police deputies are engaging in étnico profiling, from a review and analysis of aggregate/institutional data,’ the report reads.
‘In other words, it is challenging for a reputable researcher to identify specific ‘individual’ racist behavior from aggregate-level ‘institutional’ data on traffic or motor vehicle-related contacts.’
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