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Jury finds former sheriff's deputies not guilty of manslaughter in Javier Ambler's death

A mural of Javier Ambler with the words "Never Forgotten 10/17/1978-3/28/2019."
Gabriel C. Pérez
KUT News
Former Williamson County Sheriff's deputies James Johnson and Zachary Camden were cleared of manslaughter charges in the death of Javier Ambler by a jury in Travis County Thursday.

A jury in Travis County acquitted two former Williamson County Sheriff’s deputies, James Johnson and Zachary Camden, of manslaughter charges Thursday in connection with Javier Ambler’s death. Ambler, a 40-year-old Black man from Pflugerville, died in deputies' custody in March 2019 after being pursued by law enforcement for allegedly failing to dim his headlights to oncoming traffic.

The decision came after eight days of testimony from various experts and witnesses, including television producers who captured Ambler’s death on video for the reality show, Live P.D., which had a contract with the Williamson County Sheriff’s Office at the time.

The trial also featured a live taser demonstration in the courtroom. Both Johnson and Camden's use of force against Ambler, including their use of a taser, was brought into question during the trial by prosecutors.

Jurors deliberated for around four hours Thursday before announcing the not guilty verdict.

Travis County District Attorney José Garza released a statement shortly after.

"Our hearts continue to break for the family of Javier Ambler," Garza said. "We hoped that the outcome of this trial would bring justice and closure to the family. We are grateful to our community members who served on the jury for this case, respect their decision, and thank them for their service."

In addition to the manslaughter charges that the former sheriff's deputies faced, former Williamson County Sheriff Robert Chody and Jason Nassour, the former general counsel for the Williamson County Attorney’s Office, are accused of helping destroy the footage of Ambler's death that was captured for "Live P.D." Both face evidence tampering charges. A trial date has not been set yet.

Kailey Hunt is KUT's Williamson County reporter. Got a tip? Email her at Follow her on Twitter @KaileyEHunt.
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