According to the Austin American-Stateman, a Texas grand jury indicted Williamson County Sheriff Robert Chody Monday for evidence tampering in relation to the destruction of Live PD footage depicting the in-custody killing of Javier Ambler II, a Black man. The charge was the result of a probe into Ambler’s death, sparked by the American-Statesman and KVUE-TV’s reporting in June that the A&E show had destroyed the video they had recorded of his demise. Former Williamson County general counsel Jason Nassour, who was also present during Ambler’s death, also faces an evidence-tampering charge.
In June, Live PD admitted to deleting the footage of Ambler’s death, which never aired, but claimed this is standard procedure for the series. The show’s host Dan Abrams has said police initially asked the show to retain the footage, but Chody told Live PD producers to delete the video after an initial investigation by the Williamson County Sheriff’s Department of Internal Affairs was closed, two months later.
In a press conference Monday, Chody claimed the Williamson County district attorney had decided to bring the charge against him as a political tactic, as Chody is currently up for reelection. “I did not tamper with evidence,” he said. “We are now at one month from the election and the DA is just now acting in a case that is nearly two years old.” After being arrested and booked, Chody paid his $10,000 bail and was released a short time later.
In addition to video from officers’ body cameras, Ambler’s March 2019 killing was filmed after Williamson County sheriff’s deputies, accompanied by a Live PD crew, pulled him over for falling to dim his headlights when approaching oncoming traffic. After a car chase ending in a crash, Ambler was reportedly Tased multiple time and forcibly held down, during which he could be heard saying, “I can’t breathe.” The coroner’s report ruled his death a homicide, a determination that, KVUE-TV reports, can include “justifiable homicide,” and was the result of Ambler’s preexisting cardiac disease — which he also alerted the police about — “in combination with forcible restraint.”
“Today, we learned that a reason for the slow pace of justice in this case is that Sheriff Chody allegedly acted to destroy video evidence of Mr. Ambler’s death. It seems the Sheriff was more interested in being part of a reality television program and providing entertaining video content than protecting the lives of Black citizens he was sworn to protect,” attorney Jeff Edwards, who represents Ambler’s family, said in a statement Monday. “If true, such shameful behavior by a law enforcement leader is striking evidence that there needs to be a sweeping, systematic overhaul of our system of policing.”
Live PD was canceled by A&E in June amid the national protests against police brutality sparked by the in-custody killing of George Floyd.