AUSTIN, Texas – A former Texas sheriff has been charged for the second time with evidence tampering in an investigation into the death in custody of a Black man that was filmed by the police reality TV series “Live PD,” officials announced Thursday.
Robert Chody was booked into a Travis County jail on Thursday and released 20 minutes later on a $15,000 bond, a spokeswoman for the county sheriff’s office said.
The charge stems from the destruction of video that showed 40-year-old Javier Ambler's last moments in March 2019, when deputies repeatedly shocked him with stun guns. Chody was not present when the deputies allegedly killed Ambler.
Chody, 50, lost a reelection bid for Williamson County sheriff last year after being indicted on a similar charge there. His attorney did not immediately respond to a request for comment Thursday.
The latest charge came about because Williamson County deputies crossed into neighboring Travis County as they pursued Ambler for 22 minutes. Ambler was suspected of failing to dim his headlights to oncoming traffic. The new charge raises questions about where Chody will face trial.
Two deputies were indicted on manslaughter charges tied to Ambler’s death earlier this week and another county official was charged with evidence tampering.
Ambler, a former postal worker, died after deputies used stun guns on him despite his pleas that he was sick and couldn’t breathe. “Live PD” camera crews traveling with the deputies filmed the pursuit and stop in suburban Austin. The A&E Network canceled the show in June.
Police body camera video of Ambler’s death was published by the Austin American-Statesman and KVUE-TV last year. It shows the gasping 400-pound (180-kilogram) man telling the deputies that he wants to comply with their demands but can’t because he has congestive heart failure. A&E has said the video never aired because of a policy against showing a death.
Chody was charged in Williamson County in September with destroying or concealing recordings “with intent to impair" the investigation of Ambler’s death. He said at the time that he never tampered with evidence and accused prosecutors of politicizing the case.
Internal affairs investigators with the sheriff’s department determined that the deputies involved in Ambler's death didn’t violate pursuit or use-of-force policies. Their report doesn’t indicate whether the deputies were disciplined.
A&E has said investigators and prosecutors did not ask for the footage and the network did not keep it after being informed that the initial probe had closed. The network has not responded to a request for comment on the indictments this week.