Two former Texas sheriff’s deputies were arrested on manslaughter charges Tuesday in the 2019 death of a Black man who died after a police chase that was filmed for the series “Live PD.”
Javier Ambler died after deputies pursued him on a road for 22 minutes after he allegedly failed to dim his lights for oncoming traffic.
The charges against former Williamson County Sheriff’s deputies James Johnson, 36, and Zachary Camden, 26, announced Monday are the first charges issued in the case of Ambler’s death.
A Travis County grand jury indicted the former officers on the same day the Derek Chauvin murder trial began, and two years after Ambler’s death. The former Minneapolis policeman Chauvin is facing charges in the Memorial Day death of George Floyd.
Bond has been set at $150,000 for both former Texas deputies. Conditions include a prohibition on employment with law enforcement agencies or security companies.
“With these indictments, we have taken another critical step towards justice for the Ambler family and for our community,” said Travis County District Attorney Jose Garza in a statement. “While we can never take away the pain of the Ambler family, the grand jury has sent a clear message that no one is above the law. Some will inevitably seek to undermine the judgment of the grand jury in their own self-interest. A grand jury is an independent group of representatives of the community, sworn in to uphold their duties, and a critical part of society that enables the public to assess the evidence and participate in the administration of justice. We thank the jury that rendered this decision for their service to justice.”
Defense attorneys said the indictments are political and claimed Ambler’s death was a result of heart disease and physical exertion from resisting.
“Mr. Johnson and Mr. Camden are neither morally nor legally responsible for his death,” said attorneys Ken Ervin and Doug O’Connell. “We are requesting a trial as soon possible where we can ensure politics, campaign promises, and sensationalized media portrayals will not distort the truth of what occurred.”
The deadly pursuit began on March 28, 2019, after Ambler, a 40-year-old father of two, failed to dim the headlights of his SUV for oncoming traffic while heading home from a poker game.
For 22 minutes, Johnson narrated to the “Live PD” television crew as he chased Ambler across highways and down neighborhood streets.
After the chase entered Travis County, Austin officers were warned not to pursue Ambler because they are only allowed to chase violent criminals.
Ambler crashed his SUV multiple times before exiting with his hands in the air in accordance with Johnson’s orders.
After Ambler appeared to turn toward his car door, Johnson tased the 400-pound former football player. When Camden arrived on the scene as backup, also with a “Live PD” crew, he also deployed a Taser on Ambler.
Bodycam footage shows Ambler telling deputies he suffered from congestive heart failure as they pinned him down and struggled to place him in handcuffs behind his back.
“I am not resisting,” Ambler cried. “Sir, I can’t breathe. … Please. … Please.”
When the deputies noticed Ambler was unconscious and that his heart had stopped they performed CPR. Ambler was transported to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead.
The grand jury indictment of Johnson and Camden came just before a March 30 deadline that had been set by Garza for a panel to complete a review of the case.
A&E said it has never aired the footage of the arrest because of a policy against showing a death. After details about Amber’s death became public, “Live PD” said it had destroyed footage of Ambler’s death.