Former Williamson County Sheriff Robert Chody turns himself in to Travis County authorities on evidence-tampering charges

Photo of Robert Chody in uniform
Former Williamson County Sheriff Robert Chody has been indicted on evidence-tampering charges in both Travis and Williamson counties. (Courtesy Williamson County)

Former Williamson County Sheriff Robert Chody has been indicted on evidence-tampering charges in both Travis and Williamson counties. (Courtesy Williamson County)

Former Williamson County Sheriff Robert Chody turned himself in April 1 to the Travis County Jail in response to charges of evidence tampering in the case of Javier Ambler II, who died in 2019 after being tased by Williamson County Sheriff’s Office deputies in Travis County.

Travis County District Attorney Jose Garza announced April 1 a Travis County grand jury had indicted Chody on third-degree evidence-tampering charges alleging the destruction of video footage that captured Ambler’s death. Jason Nassour, Williamson County Attorney’s Office general counsel, was indicted on the same charges.

“I know that these indictments will not bring peace to the Ambler family. No parent should have to bury their child,” Garza said in a news release. “But we remain committed to seeing this through on behalf of not just Javier Ambler, but also our community.”

In March 2019, Ambler engaged in a 22-minute car chase with sheriff's office deputies after failing to dim his headlights to oncoming traffic, documents show. The pursuit continued into Travis County, where Ambler ultimately crashed his vehicle and then was tased four times by sheriff's office deputies before becoming unresponsive, county documents said.

News of the death of Ambler, a Black man, spread 15 months later in June 2020. At that time, protests were breaking out across the country for Black Lives Matter, a movement that was reignited after the death of Minneapolis resident George Floyd, who died in police custody and was also Black.

In addition to the indictments against Chody and Nassour, the Travis County grand jury returned indictments March 30 to two former Williamson County sheriff’s deputies, James Johnson and Zachary Camden, on second-degree manslaughter charges for their alleged involvement in Amber’s death. The grand jury also considered evidence against Austin Police Department Officer Michael Nissen, who was not charged.

The indictments follow Garza’s January pledge to bring cases related to the Ambler’s death before a grand jury by the end of March as well as cases related to the death of Michael Ramos, who was killed in the custody of the Austin Police Department in April 2020. Former Austin police Officer Christopher Taylor was charged with first-degree murder for Ramos’ death earlier in March—the first-ever instance of a first-degree murder charge against an Austin police officer for a “use of force incident.”

“We still have much work ahead of us, but we know that holding law enforcement accountable when they break the law is critical to restoring the trust of our community and to ensuring its safety,” Garza said.

Charges against Chody, Nassour, Johnson, Camden and Taylor will be prosecuted by the Travis County District Attorney’s Office’s Civil Rights Unit and will be tried in district courts. Trial dates have not been announced.

Chody was also indicted for evidence-tampering charges in Williamson County in September, to which he has pleaded not guilty.

While the death occurred in Travis County, Williamson County DA Shawn Dick said he has proof evidence tampering also occurred in Williamson County. Dick said “Live PD,” a documentary series on the A&E Network that follows law enforcement officers live in the course of their nighttime patrols, was on the scene and recorded the event but did not air it.

That video has since been deleted due to a contractual clause that states unused footage is to be deleted after 30 days.

Chody is next scheduled to appear before a judge in the Williamson County case on April 28. He lost his re-election bid in November to Mike Gleason.
By Olivia Aldridge

Multi-Platform Journalist

Olivia hosts and produces Community Impact Newspaper's podcasts, The Austin Breakdown, The Houston Breakdown and The DFW Breakdown. She launched the podcasts after nearly three years as a reporter for the newspaper, covering public health, business, development and Travis County government for the Central Austin edition. Olivia worked as a reporter and producer for South Carolina Public Radio before moving to Texas.