Black Man Died After Saying 'I Can't Breathe' During Arrest That Was Being Filmed for Live PD
A fatal arrest in Texas last year is receiving national attention this week after body cam footage reveals he repeatedly told officers "I can't breathe."
What began as a routine traffic stop for failing to dim headlights for oncoming traffic turned into a 22-minute chase and the death of Javier Ambler, 40, on March 28, 2019. His arrest was filmed as part of popular show Live PD.
Ambler was tased four times after the chase.
This week is the first time public statements have been made about Ambler's death in police custody.
The body cam footage comes not from the Williamson County Sheriff's deputies making the arrest, but from Austin Police officers who later arrived on the scene, NBC News reported.
"Give me your hands or I'm going to tase you again," an officer reportedly says in the footage, which was obtained by NBC station KXAN.
"I have congestive heart failure," Ambler, the father of two sons, can reportedly be heard saying in the footage. "I can't breathe."
Ambler's death was ruled a homicide according to a death report filed with the Texas Attorney General’s Office, according to KXAN. The outlet reported that he died of "congestive heart failure and hypertensive cardiovascular disease associated with morbid obesity, in combination with forcible restraint."
There was no sign that he was intoxicated, according to KXAN.
On Monday, the Travis County District Attorney Margaret Moore said that it has been "fighting" with the Williamson County Sheriff's office over the past year about releasing footage of the arrest.
"Over the last year, the District Attorney’s Office has been fighting with Williamson County Sheriff’s Office to have Live PD video footage related to Javier Ambler’s death released," Moore said in a statement via Twitter. "What should have been a routine traffic stop, ended with Javier’s death."
"For the last year, Wilco has stonewalled our investigation," Moore continued. "We planned to take this case before a grand jury in April, but bc of COVID-19 we’ll be empaneling this summer. We’re taking this case seriously & working to seek justice for Javier & his family."
The Wilco Sheriff' Robert Chody issued a statement on Tuesday morning.
"While we cannot comment on the Ambler incident due to the ongoing investigation by the Travis County D.A., we can correct misleading statements made by the Travis County D.A.," Chody said, adding that the sheriff's department "remains ready and willing to participate in the investigation being conducted by the Travis County D.A.'s office."
Chody said that the D.A.'s office has not contacted them regarding the investigation into Ambler's death.
"Any attempt to say we have slowed or otherwise impeded the investigation is absolutely false. We participated fully in the investigation launched by the Austin Police Department, the results of which have been forwarded to the Travis County D.A.," Chody said.
Chody's statement concluded to say that the sheriff's department does not control the Live PD footage, but that he also calls for the footage to be released by A&E for review by prosecutors.
Moore issued another statement on Tuesday standing by her Monday remarks.
"To be clear-The DA’s office has been working w APD’s Special Investigations Unit (SIU) all along, as is the process in all cases per our MOU w APD. I stand on my representations regarding the lack of cooperation w SIU by the Wilco Sheriff’s Office," she wrote.
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However, A&E, the network behind Live PD, said in a statement to ABC station KVUE that it has not received a request for the footage.
"Video of the tragic death of Javier Ambler was captured by body cams worn on the officers involved as well by the producers of Live PD who were riding with certain officers involved," A&E's statement said.
"The incident did not occur while Live PD was on the air, but rather during the show’s hiatus, when producers are regularly out in the field gathering footage. The footage never aired on Live PD per A&E’s standards and practices because it involved a fatality."
"Immediately after the incident, the Austin Police Department conducted an investigation using the body cam footage they had from the officers," the network's statement continued. "Contrary to many incorrect reports, neither A&E nor the producers of Live PD were asked for the footage or an interview by investigators from law enforcement or the District Attorney’s office."
"As is the case with all footage taken by Live PD producers, we no longer retained the unaired footage after learning that the investigation had concluded."
"As with all calls we follow, we are not there to be an arm of the police or law enforcement but rather to chronicle what they do and air some of that footage and our policies were in place to avoid having footage used by law enforcement against private citizens," the statement said.
The Austin Police Department did not immediately respond to PEOPLE's request for comment.
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