WILLIAMSON COUNTY, Texas - More lawsuits are being brought against former Williamson County Sheriff Robert Chody over his deputies' use of force while the reality TV show Live PD recorded incidents.
Ramsey Mitchell claims that back in June 2019, he was pulled over for allegedly missing a front license plate. After pulling him over, the lawsuit says deputies issued a call to have a TV crew film the encounter.
Mitchell claims he was assaulted by five deputies suffering many life-altering injuries, including a fractured eye socket, broken teeth, and damaged vertebrae.
In a statement, Mitchell's attorney said: "Yesterday our office filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of our client Ramsey Mitchell and against Williamson County, Sheriff Robert Chody, and the 5 sheriff deputies who unjustifiably assaulted Ramsey on June 14, 2019 during the filming of the Live PD television show. The lawsuit includes claims against the producers of Live PD for encouraging deputies to engage in unnecessary use of force purely for entertainment, television ratings, and profits.
Williamson County and Sheriff Chody maintained a dangerous culture within the Sheriff’s Office that encouraged its celebrity deputies to use violence when they were featured on Live PD. Deputies would receive steakhouse gift cards from Chody and his command staff for using force against suspects. Sheriff Chody changed policies within his office to require less training and allow for the hiring of deputies with histories of misconduct.
Deputies unjustifiably punched, kicked, and tased Ramsey multiple times when he was on the ground helpless. Ramsey begged the deputies to stop and screamed, "I can’t breathe" multiple times after being put in a chokehold and before being rendered unconscious. His injuries are serious and life-altering. Ramsey suffered a fractured eye socket requiring reconstructive surgery, fractured jaw, fractured nose, concussion, two broken teeth, two damaged vertebrae in his spine, torn elbow ligament, and a busted eardrum. We intend to hold all those responsible for Ramsey’s assault accountable."
Mitchell's lawsuit comes after the family of Javier Ambler filed a federal lawsuit against Williamson County, which alleges that 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.