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2 ex-Williamson County sheriff deputies indicted in death of Javier Ambler

Posted at 4:03 PM, Mar 30, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-30 17:05:38-04

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Two former Williamson County sheriff’s deputies were arrested Tuesday on manslaughter charges in the 2019 death of a man who was shocked with stun guns after a police chase that was filmed by real-time police TV series “Live PD,” authorities said.

The charges are the first directly tied to the death of Javier Ambler, a Black man whose car deputies chased for 22 minutes after trying to pull him over for allegedly failing to dim his headlights to oncoming traffic.

Ambler, a former postal worker, died after deputies repeatedly used stun guns on him, despite his pleas that he was sick and couldn’t breath. The stop in suburban Austin was caught on camera by “Live PD,” which was canceled by the A&E Network in June.

Former Williamson County Sheriff’s Deputies James Johnson and Zachary Camden were both charged Monday with second-degree manslaughter, Travis County District Attorney Jose Garza said.

They were booked into a Travis County jail on Tuesday and released on $150,000 bond each within an hour, according to a spokeswoman for the Travis County Sheriff’s Office. It was not immediately clear whether the men had attorneys who could comment on the charges.

“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.”

Former Williamson County Sheriff Robert Chody was also indicted last year on charges of destroying or concealing video in an investigation into Ambler’s death.

Johnson, who initiated the traffic stop, is Black. Camden is white. Both deputies had “Live PD” crews with them.

Police body camera video of Ambler’s death shows the gasping 400-pound (180-kilogram) man telling the deputies that he wants to comply with their demands but can’t because he has congestive heart failure.

“I am not resisting,” Ambler cries. “Sir, I can’t breathe. ... Please. ... Please.”

The body camera video was published by the Austin American-Statesman and KVUE-TV last year. A&E has said its video never aired because of a policy against showing a death.

The indictments accuse the deputies of acting “recklessly” by “continuing all described restraint and actions when (Ambler) stated on multiple occasions he could not breath and had a health condition.”

A&E did not respond to a request for comment on the indictments.