Just north of Austin sits the hilly brushland of Williamson County, filled with prickly pear cactus and Texas live oak. The typically quiet area is brimming with controversy that began last year with a car chase that ended in tragedy.
Wrongful death suit against county
The family of a Black man who died after a 20-minute chase by sheriff’s deputies accompanied by a reality TV camera crew has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the county.
The family of Javier Ambler, 40, alleges that the pursuit was part of a departmental effort to generate entertaining content for the hit A&E show, “Live PD.”
According to a news report, the March 28, 2019, car chase began when Ambler allegedly failed to dim his headlights. The pursuit ended in Austin, where he was restrained and tased three times.
Ambler can be heard on Austin police body camera footage telling deputies that he had a heart condition and that he could not breathe.
Sheriff accused of tampering
Williamson County Sheriff Robert Chody has been charged with destroying or concealing audio and video footage captured by “Live PD” cameras that night.
Controversy over Ambler’s death and the missing footage led to the June cancellation of the A&E program.
A custodial death report filed with the state’s Attorney General Office states Ambler died of a combination of forcible restrain, congestive heart failure and cardiovascular disease associated with morbid obesity. The report states that his death was a homicide.
In their lawsuit, the Ambler family states that Sheriff Chody’s “pursuit policy allowed officers to chase motorists who committed trivial traffic violations.”
Civil rights attorney Benjamin Crump, helping represent the family, said “Chody chose the dramatic content over safeguarding the lives of the residents he was sworn to protect and defend.”
An Austin American-Statesman analysis of pursuit reports found that car chases initiated by Williamson County deputies 54 percent last year – which included 28 weeks in which “Live PD” camera crews were embedded with the department.