USA Today reported Monday that newly released police bodycam video shows that a black man was killed in March 2019 while in Texas police custody.
In circumstances eerily similar to those of the late George Floyd, an officer tased the man, who also said he couldn’t breathe during detainment. The man died shortly thereafter.
Just this week, local media outlets were able to obtain bodycam footage of the detainment.
What are the details?
The incident was initially captured during the taping of an episode of the reality show “Live PD,” according to reports, though the episode has not aired. This week, A&E
announced that it would no longer air episodes of the popular police show.
Javier Ambler was driving in Austin, Texas, when a sheriff attempted pulled him over for reportedly failing to dim his high beams at oncoming traffic. A body camera filmed the incident, according to reports.
Ambler, a 40-year-old former postal service worker, reportedly refused to stop when the officer put on his lights and instead led the officer on a chase through area highways and streets for nearly 22 minutes.
USA Today reported that Austin officers were told to stop chasing the man into nearby Travis County because they “are allowed only to chase dangerous criminals.”
During the chase, Ambler reportedly crashed his vehicle into stationary objects no fewer than four times before finally crashing one final time north of downtown Austin.
Deputy J.J. Johnson, a regularly featured officer on “Live PD,” was reportedly alone when he finally faced off with Ambler. According to reports, Johnson drew his weapon on Ambler and demanded that he get out of the vehicle. Ambler complied as Johnson holstered his weapon and pulled out his Taser instead.
Johnson told Ambler to get down on the ground several times, but Ambler reportedly attempted to turn toward the car instead. That’s when Johnson deployed his Taser on Ambler, who fell to one knee. USA Today reported that Ambler then “rolled onto his back and stomach and acted as though he was trying to stand.”
As backup arrived, Johnson demanded that Ambler remain on the ground.
Deputy Zachary Camden arrived on the scene and immediately “shoved his Taser into Ambler’s upper back ‘in a drive-stun motion.'”
The trio struggled, and deputies deployed the Taser on Ambler a third time as they attempted to handcuff the suspect.
During the scuffle, Ambler shouted that he had “congestive heart failure” and insisted that he was unable to breathe.
Both deputies demanded Ambler relax, but he became more and more agitated instead and insisted that he wasn’t trying to resist arrest — he simply couldn’t breathe.
He told them, “I am not resisting. Sir, I can’t breathe. … Please … please. … Save me.”
At least one deputy demanded, “Do what we’re asking you to do!” but Ambler said he was unable to comply because he couldn’t breathe.
One of the deputies then deployed a final blast from the Taser, and Ambler went limp. He fell unconscious, and police worked to find a pulse. They could not find one and began performing CPR until medics arrived on the scene.
First responders took Ambler to a nearby hospital, where he was pronounced dead.
Police body-cam footage: Javier Ambler’s fatal encounter with Williamson County Sheriff’s deputies
USA Today reported that the incident is only now coming to light after repeated questions and requests for information from local media outlets.
In response, police released documents and video surrounding Ambler’s detainment and death after reportedly having been less than forthcoming with information surrounding his death.
“Ambler’s parents still have few questions about their son’s death,” the outlet reported. “Until last week, they knew only that he died in police custody. Reporters informed them he was chased after a minor traffic violation.”
The outlet noted that at least one Texas county official is concerned over the deputies’ decision to chase and tase the man simply because he failed to dim his lights.
“It is of very serious concern to any of us who are in law enforcement that the decision to engage in that chase was driven by more of a need to provide entertainment than to keep Williamson County citizens safe,” Travis County District Attorney Margaret Moore said.
Moore also added that the popular A&E show has not produced a video of the arrest so far.
Ambler’s mother, Maritza, told reporters that she is in shock.
“He’s dead,” she sobbed. “How? I can’t have any closure because I need to know.”
In an initial report, the internal affairs division concluded that the Williamson County Sheriff’s Department deputies did nothing wrong and were not in violation of the agency’s pursuit or use-of-force policies. Ambler’s death, however, was ruled a homicide according to the state attorney general’s office. The report noted that the homicide could have been “justifiable.”
Ambler’s official cause of death was congestive heart failure and hypertensive cardiovascular disease associated with morbid obesity “in combination with forcible restraint.”
The Travis County District Attorney is leading the investigation into Ambler’s death.
Moore told CNN that it’s time to take the case to the grand jury.
“This case has been so unusual,” Moore said. “It is not typical for us to encounter obstacles to getting evidence, especially from another law enforcement agency.”
She added, “It’s important, in today’s climate with the heightened response to officer-involved incidents, that the public know we are prosecuting this case, are taking it to the grand jury and will will do anything within our power to see that justice is done here.”
You can read more on the background of the case