In June, The Root reported that 40-year-old Black man Javier Ambler died in police custody in Austin, Texas, in 2019. After several months of slow news coverage relating to Ambler’s death and failed attempts by media outlets to pry information out of the Williamson County Sheriff’s Office pertaining to the case, the department released documents and video footage that put a spotlight on Williamson County Sheriff Robert Chody and his department’s involvement with the Live PD reality show. Now, Chody is charged with evidence tampering in connection with the destruction of crucial Live PD footage that allegedly showed what transpired the night Ambler died.
USA Today reports that Chody turned himself in to the Williamson County Jail Monday after a Texas grand jury indicted him and one other person on evidence tampering charges. Chody’s bond was set at $10,000.
From USA Today:
Williamson County District Attorney Shawn Dick and Travis County District Attorney Margaret Moore opened a joint investigation in June, a week after the Austin American-Statesman, part of the USA TODAY Network, and KVUE-TV revealed details of Ambler’s death and reported that “Live PD” had destroyed its footage.
Former Williamson County general counsel Jason Nassour, who was also at the scene of the March 2019 incident, also was indicted on a felony evidence tampering charge.
The indictments follow weeks of grand jury investigation that included testimony from deputies and others who were at the scene the night of Ambler’s death.
Since The Root’s earlier report has already detailed what video footage shows happened between Ambler and multiple Austin police officers last year, I won’t go into all that except to say that the all too familiar words, “I can’t breathe” were involved.
According to USA Today, prosecutors haven’t reported any details as to what Chody’s alleged role was in destroying the Live PD footage, due to an ongoing investigation. What we do know is that two months after Ambler’s death, Chody—who has been sued over excessive force claims in the past—told Live PD that the investigation had been closed, giving the show permission to destroy their footage of the confrontation. The contract between Williamson County and Live PD allowed the show to destroy unaired footage within 30 days unless a court order said otherwise or a state or federal law required that it be retained. It’s unclear how that contract will affect the case against Chody.
The indictment comes a little over a month before the November 3 election in which Chody is running for a second term as sheriff against Democratic candidate Mike Gleason, who is retired after serving 24 years in the Williamson County sheriff’s office, USA Today reports.