Recorded on video repeatedly firing a Taser at a man who later died in police custody, two former Texas deputies were recently arrested and charged with manslaughter. The former sheriff was indicted last year on charges of destroying or concealing video of the arrest.
On March 28, 2019, Williamson County Sheriff’s Deputies James Johnson and Zachary Camden attempted to pull Javier Ambler over for allegedly failing to dim his headlights to oncoming traffic. After a 22-minute pursuit, Ambler exited his vehicle with his empty hands in the air.
Deputy Johnson fired his Taser at Ambler for not getting down on the ground after being repeatedly ordered to. Lying on the ground with the officers trying to cuff his hands behind his back, Ambler, who weighed 400lbs, kept telling the deputies that he couldn’t breathe and had congestive heart failure.
Despite the fact that Ambler appeared to be in medical distress, the deputies continued tazing him while being recorded on police body cam video and cameras from the A&E reality show “Live PD.” After the deputies realized that Ambler was no longer breathing and did not have a pulse, EMTs transported him to a local hospital where he was pronounced dead.
Medical examiners listed Ambler’s cause of death as congestive heart failure and hypertensive cardiovascular disease associated with morbid obesity “in combination with forcible restraint,” according to an in-custody report filed with the Texas Attorney General’s office. The report added that he did not appear to be under the influence of drugs or alcohol at the time of his death.
In September 2020, Williamson County Sheriff Robert Chody was arrested and indicted on a third degree felony charge of tampering with evidence in relation to the death of Javier Ambler. According to Travis County District Attorney Margaret Moore, the Williamson County Sheriff’s Office refused to provide evidence, including the footage of Ambler’s death while in police custody.
In October 2020, Ambler’s family filed a wrongful death lawsuit. Although the police body cam video was released to the public, A&E refused to air the episode due to a policy against showing death.
Earlier this week, Johnson and Camden were arrested and charged with second degree manslaughter for their involvement in Ambler’s death. They were booked into a Travis County jail on Tuesday and released on $150,000 bond each within an hour.
“With these indictments, we have taken another critical step towards justice for the Ambler family and for our community,” Travis County District Attorney Jose 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.”
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