PHOTO: 40-year-old Javier Ambler, killed by Williamson County Sheriff’s Deputies in March 2019
By David Martinez
Another horrific case of the police murdering an unarmed Black man resurfaced this past week as the March 2019 killing of Javier Ambler became the focus of further outrage. His death occurred in Austin, Texas, but was mainly carried out by deputies of the Williamson County Sheriff’s Office. As he was brutally detained, he echoed George Floyd’s last words of “I can’t breathe,” before dying of asphyxiation. His murder was also recorded by the police reality show ‘Live PD’, though it was revealed that the show has since deleted the footage, complicit in the police cover up.
After midnight on March 28, 2019, Sheriff’s deputies attempted to pull Ambler over, claiming he failed to dim his headlights for oncoming traffic. Ambler did not pull over, leading the police on a 20-minute long chase that ended with Ambler crashing his vehicle into a tree in North Central Austin. Ambler exited his vehicle with his hands up, and the officers immediately began to aggressively detain him.
Body-cam footage obtained by the Austin American Statesman and released this week shows Ambler saying he wants to comply but has difficulty due to his medical conditions. He tells the officers, “I am not resisting,” and “I have congestive heart failure.”
The first detaining officer was Deputy J.J. Johnson, himself Black, an example that the police no matter their identity are enemies of the people. Johnson tased Ambler almost immediately after asking him to exit the vehicle, causing Ambler to fall to the ground. More officers begin to arrive, including Austin police, who all cooperate in holding Ambler down and tasing him.
After the fourth taser shot, they begin to place him cuffs, but at this point, Ambler was unconscious and his body was limp. Officers then begin to attempt CPR until medics arrived. Ambler was pronounced dead at the hospital.
Margaret Moore, the Travis County District Attorney who oversees the Austin area, has opportunistically attempted to portray herself as seeking justice, blaming the Williamson County Sheriff’s Office for stonewalling the investigation. But Moore has consistently failed to prosecute abusive officers in the Austin Police Department, and while she now uses the shutdown due to Covid-19 as an excuse for the lack of a grand jury, she has done nothing during the majority of the 15 months since Ambler’s death to press the case.
Additionally, Austin police were present as Ambler died, yet there has been no clear indication that Moore will be investigating or charging the APD officers who were present.
Moore is also currently backing Trump’s witchhunt of police brutality activists in Austin as she grandstands against the Williamson County Sheriff, Robert Chody. Unlike Austin, which masks its own police terror and racism with liberal PR stunts, Sheriff Chody relishes in the limelight as a right-wing firebrand. He and his department are notorious for racist conduct and brutality. In August 2019, the Southern Poverty Law Center exposed that Chody was liking violent, racist facebook posts by his underlings, including an image depicting a black NFL player getting his legs cut off for kneeling during the national anthem. A facebook account apparently belonging to County Judge Bill Gravell also ‘laugh reacted’ to the post. This kind of behavior exposes the hoax of police ‘taking a knee.’
Chody began his career as an officer in the Austin Police Department, where he was sued for putting a 15-year-old Black youth in a ‘full nelson’, choking him to the point of seizure. Chody also publishes outlandish video skits on social media, revealing an unhinged personality who makes a mockery of the community.
While all police departments are dens of reaction, Williamson County, directly North of Travis County, is renowned for its particular vileness. Chody’s department is known for brutal treatment of the people, and Ambler’s death has only enraged more of the community. His jail is a veritable dungeon where a mentally ill inmate, Daniel McCoy, was denied medical care and died in his cell in April 2018. McCoy’s family is still in the process of suing the County.
The suburbs around Austin are politically controlled by right-wing forces who puff themselves up in relation to the nearby “liberal” stronghold. But even though the conservative, white business owners politically dominate the area, many parts of Williamson County are racially and economically diverse due to the displacement of working class Black and Chicano people as a consequence of the hyper-gentrification of central Austin.
Chody’s relationship with Live PD has been a subject of scrutiny, which puts his department’s depravity against the people on display. Chody maintained a partnership with the show even after the Commissioner’s Court which oversees him ordered him to end the show’s relationship with the force.
Live PD states that they were never contacted for the footage of Ambler’s death from any law enforcement agency, including Moore’s. While their deletion of the footage is an act of covering up a murder, it is believable that there was little effort on the part of the DA or any other agency to pursue the now-deleted footage until now. Live PD was cancelled two-days prior to the resurfacing of Ambler’s death.
While the Commissioner’s Court is calling for Chody’s resignation after Ambler’s death has reached the national spotlight, it is the people who will demand and win true justice for Ambler and all of the Williamson County Sheriff’s victims.