Javier Ambler, a 40-year-old postal worker, was reportedly driving home after a friendly poker game when he failed to lower his headlights as he passed another car. This is certainly something that everyone reading this post has done at some time in their lives. However, Ambler would be dead an hour later as a result of driving past a Williamson County sheriff's officer.
Now, some three years after his death, Williamson County taxpayers have been informed that they will be paying $5 million to Ambler's family in a wrongful death case.
"While the Ambler family is devastated by the loss of their son and loving father, they are proud that they fought for him and hope that this settlement and the changes made at Williamson County as a result of this case send a strong message to law enforcement that ignoring a person's pleas for help will no longer be tolerated," Jeff Edwards, the family's attorney, said Tuesday.
The Austin American-Statesmen reports that the settlement is the biggest in county history and is the latest step in a case that has resulted in several prosecutions, issues about the role of reality television in law enforcement, and a new Texas statute prohibiting such collaborations.
These indictments occurred two years after his death. James Johnson and Zachary Camden, the deputies who squeezed the life out of him as he cried for aid on the now-cancelled Live PD programme, have been charged with one count of second-degree manslaughter each in Ambler's March death.
Naturally, the deputies' union-appointed counsel denies any wrongdoing and assert that the allegations against them are baseless and amounted to a "political talking point." Ken Ervin and Doug O'Connell, the lawyers, made a statement blaming Ambler for his own death.
"While Mr. Ambler's physical exertion in fighting the three policemen who attempted to arrest him undoubtedly contributed to his medical emergency, Mr. Johnson and Mr. Camden have no moral or legal responsibility for his death," the statement said.
However, there was no resistance, as seen by the footage below.
The 29-page lawsuit — which resulted in the historic settlement — details in chilling detail how Ambler, a 400-pound former high school football player with a heart condition and obesity, died on March 28, 2019, while in the custody of Williamson County Sheriff's Deputies JJ Johnson and Zachary Camden.
Initially, after Ambler's death, Williamson County sheriff's department detectives conducted their own investigation and decided that the officers did not break the agency's chase or use-of-force regulations. This was despite the fact that the death of Ambler has deemed a murder. That seems to have altered recently.
Sheriff Robert Chody, according to the complaint, had a "permissive pursuit policy" that encouraged cops to follow individuals "until the wheels fell off."
Additionally, it states that Chody "encouraged cops to use excessive force while being videotaped by 'Live PD,'" in order to boost the reality show's entertainment value.
According to the NY Daily News at the time, one of Chody's officers, Deputy Jarred Dalton, confirmed Chody's alleged directives when he tweeted about his ride-along with "Live PD," saying, "Glad we could make some good TV for the boss man," and "Gonna try to stir up some good stuff for y'all tonight."
Prior to charging the two cops, a Williamson County grand jury indicted Sheriff Robert Chody on felony evidence tampering in connection with Ambler's murder last September. Chody is charged with deleting the video and audio recordings from the inquiry into Ambler's death "in order to hinder their availability as evidence in the investigation," KVUE reported.
The fact that Jason Nassour, the Williamson County attorney, was also arrested on the same allegation for allegedly tampering with the same evidence adds to the case's conspiratorial appearance.
As previously reported, Live PD purportedly erased all video of Ambler's police-involved death. The indictments arise from an independent investigation conducted by the media in collaboration with the KVUE Defenders and the Austin American-Statesman after both organisations determined in June that the tape had been deleted.
As we previously reported, Ambler's last moments were recorded on police body camera video and by the crew of A&E's reality programme "Live PD." He never resisted, presented a danger to officers, or tried to fight them, nevertheless, he was pushed to the ground, repeatedly tasered, and had his body's breath sucked out until he passed out.
The confrontation apparently started when Deputy J.J. Johnson, a regular on "Live PD," passed Ambler and saw him failing to lower his brights. As a result, the deputy singled out Ambler for extortion and eventual murder.
For unexplained reasons — most likely fear of what the police could do or a desire to avoid being extorted — Ambler did not stop. He led cops on a 20-minute pursuit. The officers remained behind him since it is part of their job description to extort, abduct, and, in this case, murder individuals for failing to dim their headlights while passing another car.
Ambler's car crashed, bringing the pursuit to an end.
According to the Statesman:
Johnson, who was alone at the time, grabbed his rifle and ordered Ambler to exit his vehicle, raise his hands, and kneel. Ambler, a former 400-pound football player, exited and displayed his hands. Johnson, who is black and about half the size of Ambler, holstered his pistol and drew his Taser.
"Decline!" Johnson reiterated the statement numerous times.
Johnson deployed his Taser on Ambler as he seemed to turn toward his vehicle door, according to an internal investigation report acquired by the Statesman under the Texas Public Information Act. Ambler dropped on one knee, turned onto his back and stomach, and pretended to stand.
Moments later, many cops are squeezing the man's body while he pleads with them to stop, stating that he has congestive heart failure.
"I'm suffering from congestive heart failure," Ambler explains. "I am suffering from congestive heart failure. I am unable to breathe."
Despite the fact that the guy poses no danger, officers continue to shout cease resisting as Ambler repeats, "I can't breathe," each time becoming weaker as his lungs empty.
"I will not resist," Ambler sobs. "Sir, I'm having difficulty breathing. Kindly.... Kindly."
Deputies, plainly unaware that Ambler is unable to place his hands behind his back due to his size and health condition, continue to shout at him to do so while administering further taser hits to the 400-pound former football star.
"Assist me," Ambler pleads.
"Accomplish what we want!" 'Yell!' shouts a deputy.
"I am unable to," Ambler states. These would be his last words, just before he was tasered for the fourth time.
Ambler becomes fully unconscious after the taser. Despite the fact that he has ceased to move, the cops continue to shout at him to "put your hands behind your back and stop struggling."
They discover the unconscious guy has ceased breathing, is unconscious and has no pulse after cuffing him. He'd be declared dead moments afterwards.
As the Statesman reports, a death-in-custody report filed with the Texas attorney general's office — a procedure required whenever a person dies in police custody — stated that Ambler made no attempt to assault deputies; he made no verbal threats to others, and he made no attempt to seize any officers' weapons.
Essentially, the whole use and escalation of force were superfluous.
We will never know why Ambler did not come to a halt that night, but he had done no further offences. He would have faced the most severe allegation of failing to stop for police. And he paid the ultimate price for it.
This guy was followed, taken from his vehicle, thrown to the ground, shocked repeatedly, and had the breath squeezed from his lungs until he died, supposedly for failing to lower his headlights and driving away from officers attempting to show off for the camera.