The family of a Black man who died last year in police custody after a car chase filed a federal lawsuit against a Texas county on Sunday.
Javier Ambler II’s family hired nationally known civil rights attorney Ben Crump and filed a 28-page suit against Williamson County that detailed its account of the events that led to the 40-year-old’s death in March 2019, the Austin American Statesman reported.
The lawsuit’s allegations reflect the Stateman’s reporting in June that found Williamson County sheriff’s deputies began chasing Ambler after he did not dim his headlights and used Tasers on him four times.
The suit says crews from the reality show “Live PD” destroyed video of the incident, which led to the cancelation of the show over the summer amid nationwide protests over the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis. Floyd, who was Black, died after a police officer pinned him to the ground with his knee to Floyd's neck
Ambler's family asserts that the sheriff’s office trained deputies that they could continue using force on people who protested that they could not breathe, as Ambler did.
The lawsuit alleges that Sheriff Robert Chody, who was indicted in September for allegedly destroying or concealing evidence, supported a culture of violence in the office, usually for the reality show. It said deputies were not correctly trained on handcuffing, prone restraint and positional asphyxia, when the position of someone being arrested stops them from breathing.
The plaintiffs also argue that two deputies used excessive force on Ambler and violated his rights as a person with a disability after he informed officers that he had congestive heart failure. They said the deputies participated in a reckless chase for minor offenses, and the office hired deputies with questionable pasts.
“Sheriff Chody was deliberately indifferent to the known and obvious consequences of these policies, practices and customs which he was aware of, authorized and encouraged rather than acting to correct them,” the suit said.
Crump, who also represents the families of Floyd and Breonna Taylor, a Black woman shot and killed by police in Louisville, issued a statement obtained by the Statesman, saying “Sheriff Chody and his deputies made it a greater priority to create reality television than to defend and protect the citizens of Williamson County.”
“The sheriff and his department have a long history of excessive force against people of color, and this behavior dramatically increased when the TV cameras were on,” Crump said. “They must be held accountable.”
A spokesperson for the county told The Hill that it does not comment on current or pending litigation.
Earlier this year, District Attorney Margaret Moore alleged the sheriff’s office was “stonewalling” the probe in a tweet that is no longer available after the deletion of her Twitter account.
Dan Abrams, the former host and executive producer of “Live PD,” answered Moore in June, saying she didn’t act on body camera footage until outrage about the case increased.
.@statesman should really focus on the death of Javier Ambler and on the fact that DA @ElectMargaret (note the twitter handle) is suddenly focused on this now even though she had the body cam footage for over a year? Their reporting on #LivePd has been a journalistic disaster. https://t.co/qLcyeE8lnS— Dan Abrams (@danabrams) June 10, 2020