Video filmed by a “Live PD” crew of an in-custody death of a black man last year has been destroyed and can no longer be turned over to Austin investigators, representatives of the reality TV show said Tuesday.
The disclosure by A&E Networks came a day after the Austin American-Statesman and KVUE-TV first reported details of the March 2019 death of Javier Ambler while being arrested by Williamson County sheriff’s deputies in connection with a traffic violation. The Austin American-Statesman is part of the USA TODAY Network.
A&E confirmed Tuesday that “video of the tragic death of Javier Ambler was captured by body cams worn on the officers involved as well by the producers of Live PD who were riding with certain officers involved.”
It said that the incident did not occur while the show was airing live and that the video was not broadcast later.
A&E’s statement said that Austin investigators had not asked for the video or to interview show producers. “As is the case with all footage taken by Live PD producers, we no longer retained the unaired footage after learning that the investigation had concluded,” the network said in a statement.
The Statesman and KVUE obtained video of Ambler’s final moments recorded by an Austin police officer’s bodycam. Dashcam video from Williamson County deputies who chased Ambler’s car for 20 minutes has not been released.
Three of four Williamson County commissioners Tuesday called for Sheriff Robert Chody to resign after learning of Ambler’s death and charges that Chody’s department had failed to provide evidence to Travis County investigators.
“The citizens have lost faith in him,” Williamson County Commissioner Russ Boles said.
Williamson County sheriff’s deputies attempted to pull Ambler over March 28, 2019, after he failed to dim the headlights of his SUV to oncoming traffic. Twenty-eight minutes later, the 40-year-old black father of two sons lay dying on a North Austin street after deputies held him down and used Tasers on him four times while a crew from A&E’s show “Live PD” filmed.
The former postal worker repeatedly pleaded for mercy, telling deputies he had congestive heart failure and couldn’t breathe. He cried, “Save me,” before deputies deployed a final shock.
Fifteen months after Ambler’s death, his family has no answers about why he died, and none of the officers involved have faced any repercussions.
A Williamson County internal affairs investigation found deputies did nothing wrong. But Travis County District Attorney Margaret Moore, whose office is tasked with investigating Ambler’s death with Austin police detectives, told the Statesman that she plans to take the case to a grand jury.
Moore accused Chody of stonewalling and refusing to provide evidence.
Chody on Tuesday called the allegations of stonewalling “misleading” and said commissioners’ calls for his resignation were misinformed and politically motivated.
“The Williamson County Sheriff’s Department remains ready and willing to participate in the investigation being conducted by the Travis County DA’s office,” Chody said in a statement. “However the Travis County DA’s office has not contacted us for any reason related to this investigation. Any attempt to say we have slowed or impeded the investigation is absolutely false.”
In a response, Moore said the investigation was conducted by the Austin police special investigations unit “with our oversight.”
“I stand by my representations regarding the lack of cooperation,” she said.
As more than a dozen protesters gathered outside the Commissioners Court’s regularly scheduled meeting Tuesday, Williamson County commissioners had strong words for Chody.
“I, like you, am outraged over the circumstance of his death, shocked at Sheriff Chody’s failure to cooperate with the investigation into Mr. Ambler’s death and heartbroken for his family and loved ones who almost 15 months later still have no answers,” said Williamson County Commissioner Cynthia Long. “Sheriff Chody must resign immediately.”
Commissioner Terri Cook also said Chody should resign.
“I have no confidence that he has the temperament, operational intelligence, administrative ability nor the people skills to handle the job,” Cook said.
Commissioner Valerie Covey did not call for Chody’s resignation but said the court should have known about Ambler’s death sooner.
In May, the Commissioners Court sued Chody and Big Fish Entertainment, the producer of “Live PD,” for entering into an agreement to film in the county without getting permission from the commissioners. The commissioners had canceled the county’s previous contract with Big Fish Entertainment in August 2019.
The contract was canceled, in part, because the Williamson County district attorney had expressed concerns about a lack of access to evidence gathered by film crews on patrol with deputies.
More than 3,000 people signed a petition for the sheriff’s office to continue its relationship with “Live PD” in September 2019.
Williamson County District Attorney Shawn Dick said he had no comment Tuesday about calls for Chody’s resignation.
“That’s for other people to decide,” Dick said. “It’s not good when you have other people believing that you have a sheriff’s office stonewalling an investigation. My heart goes out to the Ambler family.”