The family of a man killed by Texas sheriff’s deputies filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Williamson County, Texas.
Lawyers representing the family of Javier Ambler filed the suit on Sunday in a federal court in the Western District of Texas, Austin Division, reported The Austin American Statesman. Ambler died after he was taken into custody by Williamson County sheriff’s deputies in March 2019.
Ambler’s encounter with the deputies began after they attempted to pull him over because he did not lower his SUV’s high beams as they passed each other. After Ambler refused to stop, the deputies began to chase him. The pursuit ended after Ambler crashed his vehicle.
Body camera footage showed what happened after the crash. The deputies ordered Ambler out of his SUV and forced him to lie on the ground. He told the deputies he was struggling to breathe and had health issues. Ambler was about 400 pounds at the time of his death.
“I have congestive heart failure,” Ambler said. “I have congestive heart failure. I am not resisting. I can’t breathe.”
The deputies tasered him four times before he lost consciousness. Ambler was pronounced dead at a local hospital less than 30 minutes after he first encountered the deputies. He was 41 years old.
The chase was filmed by cameramen from “Live PD,” a reality show produced by A&E. The footage never aired.
The lawsuit blamed Williamson County Sheriff’s deputies JJ Johnson and Zachary Camden for Ambler’s death.
“Williamson County Sheriff’s Deputies JJ Johnson and Zachary Camden killed Javier Ambler, II as he begged ‘I can’t breathe,’” the court documents state.
“Johnson fired the TASER at Ambler despite the fact that he was compliant, not posing a threat, and not attempting to escape the officers on foot. Camden also drew his TASER, and used its ‘drive stun’ mode to shock Ambler in the back despite the fact that Ambler was compliant, not posing a threat, and not attempting to escape the officers,” the filing said.
The suit also accuses Sheriff Robert Chody for encouraging his deputies to engage in car chases for trivial offenses to produce entertaining content for “Live PD.” Chody is currently facing felony tampering charges for reportedly destroying evidence related to the case.
“Sheriff Chody’s permissive chase policy, and his policy of allowing Live PD to film policing activities as ‘entertainment,’ encouraged Johnson to chase Ambler for this trivial offense,” the lawsuit said.
The family is seeking unspecified damages. The Ambler camp addressed the lawsuit during a new conference on Monday, Oct. 26.
“He was my firstborn, you know. And I’m here to tell you they took him away … they took him away way too early from me,” Javier Ambler Sr., his father, told reporters. “He was supposed to bury me.”
“This lawsuit is not going to bring my child back, but it is going to represent some kind of justice for my son,” his mother Maritza said. “And that’s all we’re asking for.”
Ambler’s family hired prominent civil rights attorney Ben Crump to join their legal team. He also spoke during the news conference.
“For too many Black citizens, life in America feels like a reality TV show; we are all trapped with a plot that plays out over and over again,” Crump said. “Every episode involves an encounter with police that results in injury or worse in death. … White men often become the killers of Black men for reasons that nobody would ever imagine. He [Ambler] is dead because he had on his high beam lights and they wanted some ratings on a television show.”