Accused of destroying evidence depicting a man dying in police custody, a former Texas sheriff was charged Thursday with felony evidence tampering. The former sheriff was indicted on a similar charge last year due to the fact that his deputies crossed county lines before making the arrest.
On March 28, 2019, Williamson County Sheriff’s Deputies James Johnson and Zachary Camden crossed into neighboring Travis County while pursuing Javier Ambler for allegedly failing to dim his headlights to oncoming traffic. The deputies were recorded on police body cam video from an Austin police officer at the scene and cameras from the A&E reality show “Live PD” repeatedly tazing Javier Ambler, who weighed 400lbs, kept telling the deputies that he couldn’t breathe, and had congestive heart failure.
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. Ambler’s death was ruled a homicide due to congestive heart failure and hypertensive cardiovascular disease associated with morbid obesity “in combination with forcible restraint.”
On September 28, 2020, Williamson County Sheriff Robert Chody and Jason Nassour, who was general counsel for the Williamson County Attorney’s Office, were indicted on felony evidence tampering charges in relation to the death of Javier Ambler. According to prosecutors, Chody and Nassour were allowed to access the videos of the arrest from A&E and could have prevented the footage from being destroyed but allowed the company to destroy evidence of an ongoing investigation.
A&E reportedly deleted the footage after 30 days due to a policy against showing death on the program. According to A&E, the company did not receive any requests from Sheriff Chody for a copy of the footage after confirming that he had closed his investigation into the arrest.
Last year, Chody lost a re-election bid in Williamson after being indicted on felony third degree tampering with evidence. Earlier this week, deputies Johnson and Camden were charged with second degree manslaughter for their involvement in Ambler’s death.
On Wednesday, Travis County announced that Nassour has been indicted on one count of felony third degree tampering with evidence for allowing the destruction of the video instead of giving a copy to the Travis County District Attorney’s Office. The next day, Chody was arrested and booked into a Travis County jail on a similar charge.
The former sheriff was released 20 minutes later on a $15,000 bond.