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Two former Texas deputies have been indicted in a Black man’s death in 2019, which was filmed by a reality television show.
Javier Ambler, 40, was chased by deputies in Williamson County in March of 2019 after he failed to dim his headlights. After he pulled over, Ambler was tasered four times and died during the altercation. His death has been ruled a homicide. Ambler uttered the phrase “I can’t breathe” several times during the incident before his death, CNN reported last year. He also tried to tell the deputies that he had “congestive heart failure,” according to officer body camera footage.
Two of the then-deputies have now been indicted on manslaughter charges in connection with Ambler’s death. Former deputies James Johnson, 36, and Zachary Camden, 26, have each been charged with one count of second-degree manslaughter, Travis County District Attorney Jose Garza said on Tuesday in a press release. The court has set a bail of $150,000 for each former deputy. Johnson is Black and Camden is white.
“With these indictments, we have taken another critical step towards justice for the Ambler family and for our community,” Garza said. “While we can never take away the pain of the Ambler family, the grand jury has sent a clear message that no one is above the law.”
The death of Ambler, a former postal worker, was caught on video during filming for the A&E reality TV show “Live PD.” The show was canceled last year during racial justice and police brutality protests and following a report that his death was captured on camera.
The footage of Ambler’s death never aired; it was later destroyed in accordance with the show’s policy to only keep unused footage for a few weeks, Law & Crime reported last year.
Defense attorneys for the former deputies have dismissed the indictments as political, the Associated Press reports.
“Mr. Johnson and Mr. Camden are neither morally nor legally responsible for his death,” attorneys Ken Ervin and Doug O’Connell said in a statement. “We are requesting a trial as soon as possible where we can ensure politics, campaign promises, and sensationalized media portrayals will not distort the truth of what occurred.”
Former Williamson County Sheriff Robert Chody was indicted last year on charges of destroying or concealing video during the investigation into Ambler’s death.
Editor's note: The original version of this story stated that both former deputies, James Johnson and Zachary Camden, are white. Johnson is Black and Camden is white. The story has been updated.
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