Two former Williamson County sheriff’s deputies have been indicted on charges of manslaughter for the death of Javier Ambler II in 2019.
Deputies J. J. Johnson and Zach Camden attempted to stop Ambler, a 40-year-old Black man, for failing to dim his headlights for oncoming traffic. Amble didn’t stop, which led to a 22-minute car chase. Ambler was eventually stopped, tazed several times and died. All of it was captured by the reality television show “Live PD,” which was riding along with the deputies that night.
Austin American-Statesman and KVUE-TV investigative reporter Tony Plohetski has been covering Ambler’s case over the past two years. He says a Travis County grand jury deterrmined the deputies’ actions to have been “reckless.”
The deputies’ attorneys argue the case isn’t cut and dried, and that the deputies’ actions were in response to Amber allegedly committing multiple felonies during the car chase. But Plohetski reiterates that it all began for a very minor reason, and ended in Ambler’s death. He says Ambler was “gasping for breath” and told the deputies he had congestive heart failure.
“Make no mistake: the whole encounter started over that minor traffic crime,” Plohetski said.
The case will go to trial, which could be months away because of a backlog of cases due to the pandemic.
Plohetski says the other glaring problem in the case is the involvement of “Live PD.” He says viewers used to love the show (which was canceled last year) because it gave them a “front row seat” to witness police activity across the county. Others questioned the ethics of police departments having contracts with reality TV shows.
The Texas Legislature is currently debating the ethics as well. “Javier Ambler’s Law” would ban reality TV shows from partnering with Texas police departments.