AUSTIN, Texas - The production company behind Live PD is now suing local law enforcement.
The lawsuit, filed by Big Fish Entertainment in the US District Court of the Western District of Texas, says the Williamson County Sheriff's Office and Austin Police Department misrepresented information about video Live PD recorded during the death of Javier Ambler.
The production company also says Williamson and Travis counties said the company was "stonewalling" the investigation. The Live PD video was requested as part of the investigation but was never produced to APD's Special Investigations Unit, according to Williamson County DA Shawn Dick, however, in the lawsuit, Big Fish says no local agency ever filed a valid subpoena for its footage.
Big Fish says that because they received no subpoena, they deleted the footage in accordance with the company's agreement with Williamson County that "expressly provided that Big Fish was the 'sole and exclusive owner' of its footage and required that all unaired or raw footage 'shall be destroyed by [Big Fish] no later than thirty (30) days after the Raw Footage is captured, except to the extent [Big Fish] is required to retain the Raw Footage pursuant to a valid court order or other state or federal laws'."
Big Fish Entertainment also claims their camera crew's First Amendment rights were violated when officers took camera equipment the night of Ambler's death.
A&E Network canceled Live PD following weeks of protests inspired by the death of George Floyd and reports on the Ambler case. The cancellation was announced a day after the similar show "Cops," on the air for 33 seasons, was dropped by the Paramount Network.
Former Williamson County Sheriff Robert Chody was indicted for tampering with evidence in this case. Chody's lawyer has released a statement saying,
"We have been telling the Travis County DA's office for weeks now that they are proposing to indict [Sheriff] Chody for not doing something that he was prohibited by federal law from doing. So far, our efforts appear to have fallen on deaf ears. The urge to make a popular political statement has overridden their judgment as lawyers. Perhaps this lawsuit will get their attention. The Travis County DA's office, prior to the new administration mislead the public in claiming that Big Fish (Live PD) and Sheriff Chody somehow "stonewalled" the [Ambler] investigation. As the allegation in the complaint lay out, this is simply untrue. I am disappointed in the elected officials who have pushed this narrative as should be the voters. Unfortunately, misrepresentations by elected officials are in vogue these days. We will be examining our remedies to right these wrongs."
This lawsuit comes as state Rep. James Talarico (D-Round Rock) filed HB 54, which would ban Texas law enforcement agencies from participating in reality TV shows.
That bill was sparked by Ambler's death and his sister helped lawmakers draft the bill.
WHO IS JAVIER AMBLER?
Javier Ambler was killed during an altercation with Williamson County deputies. On March 28, 2019, deputies pursued Ambler's car from Williamson County into Travis County where he died while deputies were trying to take him into custody. Deputies pursued him because he allegedly failed to dim his headlights to oncoming traffic.
After crashing his vehicle near the intersection of Saint John’s and Bennett, deputies struggled to handcuff Ambler, resulting in the use of a stun gun several times.
Police body camera video from the APD of Ambler’s death shows the gasping 400-pound man telling the deputies that he wants to comply with their demands but that he can’t because he has congestive heart failure.
"I am not resisting," Ambler cries. "Sir, I can’t breathe. ... Please. ... Please."
A Live PD camera crew was also on the scene at the time of Ambler's arrest, shadowing deputies as part of the show, but the incident was never broadcast and video was deleted.