April 11, 2021

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Two ex-Texas sheriff deputies arrested in Black man’s 2019 death

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US charges are first directly tied to death of Javier Ambler, who died after officers used stun guns on him after a chase.

Two former Texas sheriff’s deputies have been arrested on manslaughter charges in the United States in relation to the 2019 death of a man as the officers used stun guns on him after a police chase, authorities said. They were charged on Monday.

The charges are the first directly tied to the death of Javier Ambler, a Black man whose car deputies chased for 22 minutes after trying to pull him over for allegedly failing to dim his headlights to oncoming traffic.

Ambler, a former postal worker, died after deputies repeatedly used stun guns on him, despite his pleas that he was sick and could not breathe.

The stop in suburban Austin, Texas, was caught on camera by the real-time police television series Live PD, which was cancelled by the TV outlet A&E Network in June.

The indictments were announced as a former Minneapolis police officer is being tried in the death of George Floyd, a case that has again brought police brutality and racial injustice to the forefront in the US.

Former Williamson County Sheriff’s Deputies James Johnson and Zachary Camden were charged with second-degree manslaughter, Travis County District Attorney Jose Garza said.

They were booked into a Travis County jail on Tuesday and released on a $150,000 bond each within an hour, according to a spokeswoman for the Travis County Sheriff’s Office. It was not immediately clear whether the men had lawyers who could comment on the charges.

“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.”

Former Williamson County Sheriff Robert Chody was also indicted last year on charges of destroying or concealing video in an investigation into Ambler’s death.

Johnson, who initiated the traffic stop, is Black. Camden is white. Both deputies had Live PD crews with them.

Police body-camera footage of Ambler’s death shows the gasping 400-pound (180-kilogramme) man telling the deputies that he wants to comply with their demands but cannot because he has congestive heart failure.

“I am not resisting,” Ambler cries. “Sir, I can’t breathe … Please … Please.”

The body camera video was published by the Austin American-Statesman newspaper and online channel KVUE-TV last year. A&E has said its video never aired because of a policy against showing a death.

The indictments accuse the deputies of acting “recklessly” by “continuing all described restraint and actions when (Ambler) stated on multiple occasions he could not breathe and had a health condition.”

A&E did not respond to a request for comment on the indictments.

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