Austin/ Crime & Emergencies
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Published on February 27, 2024
Defense Highlights Medical History in Trial of Deputies Accused of Manslaughter in Javier Ambler's DeathSource: Austin Police Department

The courtroom was tense as the trial against former Williamson County sheriff's deputies J.J. Johnson and Zach Camden continued, with the defense spotlighting Javier Ambler II's medical history and decision-making the night of his death. Ambler, a Black 40-year-old father of two, died in March 2019 after a vehicular chase that started because he failed to dim his headlights. The deputies allegedly employed Tasers several times, even as Ambler indicated he could not breathe and had a heart condition, as report by The Austin American-Statesman.

In the trial, defense attorney Ken Ervin pointed out that Ambler's weight, "over 400 pounds,", and his medical issues could have predisposed him to cardiac arrest — exacerbated, he suggested, by Ambler's evasion of the police and subsequent collisions. The defense posited that the deputies acted within the bounds, not knowing Ambler's motivations for fleeing, and portrayed his death as a consequence of medical complications during the pursuit and ensuing struggle, not their interventions. "The state wants you to believe that he wasn’t resisting. You're going to see that for yourself. You’re going to see on the video that he is resisting," Ervin said in a statement obtained by CBS Austin.

Prosecutors, however, are presenting a different narrative. “Those were not the cause of Javier's death. The cause of Javier's death was the actions that these defendants chose to make that night in repeatedly tasing him and forcibly restraining him," prosecutor Holly Taylor said, countering the defense's claim. The prosecution intends to bring forward 25 witnesses, including Austin Police officers and first responders present on the night of Ambler's death and aims to prove the deputies' actions were "unnecessary, unreasonable and unjustified," as per The Austin American-Statesman.