GEORGETOWN, Texas - The family of Javier Ambler is suing Williamson County.
The federal lawsuit makes several accusations against the Williamson County Sheriff's Office and Sheriff Robert Chody, alleging Chody encouraged his officers to engage in dangerous behavior because it "made for more entertaining television" on Live PD.
"Chody encouraged his officers to engage in dangerous, high-risk police tactics because it made for more entertaining television in service to Live PD," the lawsuit alleges. "If Live PD producers considered department “boring,” its activities would not be broadcast. Thus, Chody prioritized producing “exciting” content for Live PD over the health and safety of the County’s citizens."
Last March, Ambler was driving home when WCSO deputies recorded by Live PD attempted to stop him for having his high-beam headlights on. Deputies then chased Ambler into Austin.
The chase ended when Ambler crashed his car. Officers then tased and handcuffed him.
Ambler could be heard on body camera video telling officers that he had a heart condition and that he could not breathe. He died of congestive heart failure and cardiovascular disease "in combination with forcible restraint."
"In the year that Live PD began partnering with Chody and Williamson County, the number of police chases by Chody’s department increased 54%," the lawsuit says. "Chody’s Williamson County deputies chased suspects at a higher rate than any other jurisdiction in Central Texas. Half of all chases in Williamson County occurred while Live PD camera crews were filming the department."
The lawsuit also alleges that the number of use of force incidents doubled between 2017 and 2019 due to Live PD and that deputies used force "significantly more often than when they weren’t accompanied by Live PD camera crews". Deputies also allegedly used TASERs "much more often after Live PD arrived in Williamson County," nearly doubling between 2017 and 2019.
Last month, Chody was indicted on a tampering charge in connection to the case surrounding Ambler's death. Chody and Assistant Williamson County Attorney Jason Nassour were indicted on charges of third-degree felony tampering with physical evidence, which carries a punishment range of 2 to 10 years in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice or probation and up to a $10,000 fine, according to Williamson County District Attorney Shawn Dick.
Both Chody and Nassour were arrested and released on bond. They will have their first court date on November 30.
Documents obtained by FOX 7 Austin show that Chody has been indicted because he is accused of destroying or concealing, namely video recordings and audio recordings, "with intent to impair their availability as evidence in the investigation." That evidence was a video of the incident recorded by a Live PD crew that was riding with Williamson County deputies during the traffic stop.
Dick and Travis County District Attorney Margaret Moore held a news conference in September to discuss Chody's indictment and more. "We are proceeding with the tampering investigation first because the video footage is critically material to the use of force case," said Moore.
Sheriff Chody spoke out against the indictment against him, calling it politically motivated. Dick denied that it was.