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Travis County grand jury indicts two former deputies on manslaughter charges in Javier Ambler death

A grand jury indicted two former Williamson County Sheriff's deputies in the death of Javier Ambler, a Black man who died in March 2019 while being arrested for a minor traffic violation. The indicted deputies chased Ambler into Travis County and tased him repeatedly before he died.

James Johnson and Zachary Camden have each been charged with second-degree manslaughter, according to a Tuesday announcement from Travis County District Attorney José Garza. They face up to 20 years if convicted of the felony charge.

The court has set bail at $150,000 for each man and prohibited them from being employed with law enforcement agencies or security companies as a condition of their release.

"With these indictments, we have taken another critical step towards justice for the Ambler family and for our community," Garza said in a statement. "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."

Ambler's parents are pleased about the development, according to a press release issued on Tuesday. "We sincerely thank Mr. Garza and his team, and hope they are able to secure a conviction to send the message that police officers are not above the law," Javier Ambler Sr. said in a statement.

Former Williamson County Sheriff Robert Chody was indicted and arrested on a felony charge for destroying video evidence related to Ambler's death last September.

Williamson County District Attorney Shawn Dick and former Travis County District Attorney Margaret Moore opened a joint investigation last summer, after the Austin American-Statesman and KVUE reported that Ambler's death had been recorded during a taping of the A&E reality show "Live PD," which has since been canceled.

State Rep. James Talarico, D-Round Rock, laid out House Bill 54—or the Javier Ambler Law—at the Texas Capitol last week. If passed, it would ban police and sheriff's departments from contracting with reality TV shows such as Live PD.

The same grand jury also heard evidence related to Austin Police Department Officer Michael Nissen's involvement in Ambler's death and determined there was insufficient evidence to prosecute him.

The Travis County District Attorney's Office announced earlier this month that the APD officer who shot and killed MIchael Ramos had also been indicted and charged with first-degree murder, in what the office said was the first known murder idictment for an Austin police office in a use-of-force incident.


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