'I can’t breathe': new video shows Texas man pleading with police before his death

Police bodycam footage shows officers used stun guns on Javier Ambler several times before his death

Police video and documents show Javier Ambler died in police custody last year after Texas officers repeatedly used stun guns on him, despite his pleas that he couldn’t breathe. Credit: Facebook/Javier Ambler
Beta V.1.0 - Powered by automated translation

A black man died in police custody last year after deputies in Texas repeatedly used stun guns on him, despite his pleas that he was sick and could not breathe.

Williamson County deputies pulled Javier Ambler, 40, over on March 28, 2019, near downtown Austin because he failed to dim his headlights to coming traffic, the Austin American-Statesman and KVUE-TV reported.

The deputies were being filmed for A&E Network's real-time police show Live PD, a feature of the arrest that prosecutors said was particularly troubling.

The report on Mr Ambler’s death was published on Monday as thousands paid their respects to George Floyd at a church in Houston.

Mr Floyd’s death in police custody in Minneapolis has sparked weeks of protests worldwide against police brutality and the treatment of African Americans.

He was buried in Houston on Tuesday.

Police body camera video of Mr Ambler's death, was released to the Statesman under the Texas Public Information Act.

It shows the gasping, 181-kilogram man telling the deputies that he wanted to comply with their demands but could not because he had congestive heart failure.

“I am not resisting," Mr Ambler cries. “Sir, I can’t breathe. Please. Please.”

Deputies yell for him to put his arms behind his back

“Save me,” he pleads.

“Do what we’re asking you to do,” a deputy shouts.

“I can’t,” Mr Ambler says.

Those were his last words.

Ambler was driving home after playing poker with friends when Williamson County Deputy JJ Johnson saw him with his headlights on high.

Mr Johnson flipped on his flashing lights and gave chase. Mr Ambler crashed his vehicle near downtown Austin.

Mr Johnson drew his gun and demanded that he get out of his car.

Mr Ambler complied and showed his hands. Mr Johnson, who is also black, holstered his gun, pulled out his Taser and told Mr Ambler to get down several times.

An internal investigative report said Mr Ambler turned towards his vehicle and Mr Johnson shot him with the Taser, making him drop to one knee and roll on to his back and stomach.

It appeared that he was trying to stand.

A white Williamson County deputy arrived with the Live PD crew and shoved his Taser into Mr Ambler's back.

A struggle ensued, and one of the deputies – it is unclear which – used a Taser on him for a third time, the report says.

An Austin police officer arrived on the scene as the deputies struggled to handcuff Mr Ambler, and it was his camera that recorded the final pleas for help.

One of the deputies fired his Taser for a fourth time. The video shows Mr Ambler's hands were limp by the time deputies placed them in cuffs.

Officers saw he was unconscious and performed cardiopulmonary resuscitation until medics arrived.

Mr Ambler was pronounced dead at a hospital.

Investigators with the Williamson County sheriff’s department of internal affairs determined that the deputies did not breach the agency’s policies for pursuit or use of force.

Their report does not indicate whether the deputies were disciplined or forced to take leave.

Mr Ambler’s death was ruled a homicide, said the report made to the state attorney general’s office, which noted that it could have been “justifiable.”

An autopsy revealed he died of congestive heart failure and hypertensive cardiovascular disease associated with morbid obesity “in combination with forcible restraint".

Margaret Moore, district attorney for Travis County, said her civil rights division was investigating the death.

But Ms Moore she said her office received resistance from the Williamson County sheriff's office.

"For the last year, Wilco has stonewalled our investigation," she wrote on Twitter.

She said her office fought with the sheriff's office over the TV show footage.

Williamson County Sheriff Robert Chody said that he was asked to resign from his post but refused.

"It is not surprising to me to see a left-leaning member of the court call for my resignation," Mr Chody said.

"Across our country, Democrats are turning against law enforcement and attempting to remove its funding and leadership."

Ms Moore said the district attorney's office was moving ahead with plans to bring the case before a grand jury.