What You Need To Know About A Central Texas Sheriff’s Indictment Related To A Black Man’s Death

Williamson County Sheriff Robert Chody faces a felony evidence tampering charge in a case involving the death of 40-year-old Javier Ambler.

By Jill Ament & Laura RiceSeptember 29, 2020 6:58 am

A grand jury indicted Williamson County Sheriff Robert Chody on Monday for evidence tampering in the investigation of the March 2019 death of Javier Ambler, while in police custody. Ambler was the target of a would-be traffic stop that was apparently being filmed for the TV show “Live PD.”

Tony Plohetski is a reporter for the Austin American-Statesman and KVUE TV. He has been following this story for months.

On the charges behind the indictment of Sheriff Chody:

“What’s alleged by prosecutors who have been investigating this case, along with a Williamson County grand jury, is that the sheriff, as well as the county’s former general counsel, had some role in the destruction of raw, unaired footage from the television show ‘Live PD.’ Authorities will not really describe the nature of the charge. In other words, what specific acts the sheriff allegedly took and the general counsel allegedly took. They say that is all part of the investigation. But they do make it clear that, as part of a grand jury hearing that really happened over the past several weeks, that included up to 19 witnesses, and according to Williamson County District Attorney Sean Dick, that grand jury felt as though they had sufficient evidence and sufficient probable cause to bring these charges against the sheriff and the former general counsel.”

On who Javier Ambler was and the incident that led to his death:

“Javier Ambler was a 40-year-old former postal worker. He was a father. He had been out for a night of poker playing with his friends. This all actually happened in March 2019. He was driving home and a deputy in Williamson County began pursuing him because he failed to dim his headlights. Javier Ambler did not stop. And the deputies embarked on a pursuit that continued 22 minutes into Travis County and into the city of Austin, where the chase ended when Javier Ambler crashed his car. At that point, the deputies used their tasers four times on Javier Ambler as he was shouting and gasping, really, that he had congestive heart failure and that he could not breathe. His cause of death, according to the Travis County medical examiner’s office, was congestive heart failure in combination with forcible restraint.”

On “Live PD” crew presence during the incident:

“When we were able to obtain body camera video, it actually shows, in pretty clear view, crews from ‘Live PD’ taping the final moments of Javier Ambler’s life. Again, ‘Live PD’ often airs events, police events, as they happen live. But, in this case, the show was not live in that moment. This happened at around 1:30 in the morning.”

On what happened to the “Live PD” video:

“’Live PD,’ soon after we first revealed details of what happened that night, confirmed that they no longer had the video. And in fact, the host of the show, Dan Abrams, said that the show was told by the Williamson County sheriff that they had closed the investigation using other video in the case. And so at that point, ‘Live PD’ destroyed the video and that happened, they said, about two months later after Javier Ambler’s death. But they did not confirm that the video was no longer [in] existence until June 2020. And that is important to understand the timeline. And it was at that point that prosecutors announced, both in Travis County and in Williamson County, that they were opening a joint investigation about the destruction of that video.”

On the response from Ambler’s family to the indictment:

“Ambler’s family has said for months now that they want justice in this case. They’ve been very clear that they believe that there is a cultural, systemic issue within the Williamson County sheriff’s office from the top down. So they really praised the indictments yesterday, but, of course, are deeply disturbed about this entire event and deeply disturbed, too, that the two deputies actually continue to be employed by the Williamson County Sheriff’s Office and are still on the streets of Williamson County.”

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