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Local leaders react to deputies' indictments in Javier Ambler death

Former Williamson County deputies J.J. Johnson and Zach Camden were indicted on charges of manslaughter.

AUSTIN, Texas — Some local community leaders in Central Texas are reacting to the indictment of two former Williamson County sheriff's deputies in the death of Javier Ambler.

Former deputies J.J. Johnson and Zach Camden were indicted on charges of manslaughter. They were released from jail Tuesday on bond.

"I think this is a small step toward justice for Javier, for the Ambler family, for our community and our state. But I think it underscores the need for systemic change in our criminal justice system," Texas State Rep. James Talarico (D-Round Rock) told KVUE over the phone Tuesday. 

Talarico introduced House Bill 54, known as the Javier Ambler Law.

He explained that the law would ban all police departments and law enforcement agencies in the state of Texas from contracting with reality TV shows. Ambler's death was captured by crews from the now-canceled show "Live PD."

RELATED: Deputies indicted in Javier Ambler death on manslaughter charges

"You watched the horrific video of Javier Ambler's killing and you see these deputies acting in such an aggressive manner and you wonder why they would Tase this, this unarmed father of two," Talarico said, adding, "[It] doesn't seem to make sense until you realize that these two deputies are being followed by a TV crew. A TV crew for a reality TV show. A TV crew that's egging them on to provide more entertainment for their episode."

Talarico laid out the proposed bill to the House last week.

"And so, I think if we didn't have these reality TV shows following police officers in our communities, Javier Ambler would still be with us today," he said.

Credit: Heikki Mustonen
The words "Never Forgotten" painted on a mural outside of Home Slice on South Congress Avenue to honor the memory of Javier Ambler.

Chas Moore, the executive director and co-founder of the Austin Justice Coalitionm, hopes that the indictments send a message.

"It seems that here in the Travis County area that we are going to take very seriously cases of police misconduct and police brutality and police violence," Moore said. "I think the more officers see that they don't get this get-off-free card and they actually have to go through the legal process, I think we'll start to see a change in how they interact with community members, specifically those of color and Black folks. So, you know, I think this is just another example of how Travis County is really being a lead and taking bold steps in trying to bring some justice to the criminal justice system."

KVUE also spoke to Pflugerville City Councilmember Rudy Metayer, who has shown support for the Ambler family in the past.

"What happened to Javier should never happen to anyone in our society," he said. "This is not a Black or White issue. This is not a Republican or Democrat issue. This is a people issue."

He added that he wasn't surprised by the indictments and believes that the community wants to see a full judicial process in a case like this. 

"I think that people want to see a full and fair process involved when they see issues or concerns that are of deep concern, that are disturbing on their surface. Oftentimes, you hear people who are concerned about things being swept under the rug as opposed to things being fully vetted. And make no mistake, for law enforcement as well, for these officers, they should have a full, fair process. I'm an attorney myself. You should be able to go ahead and, go ahead and have a full and fair process," he said. 

On Tuesday night, Javier Ambler's father, Javier Ambler Sr., released the following statement:

"We are very pleased to see that the Travis County District Attorney is serious about seeking justice for our family. Our goal has always been to hold these officers accountable so that there are no more families who have to suffer like ours has. We sincerely thank Mr. Garza and his team, and hope they are able to secure a conviction to send the message that police officers are not above the law."

WATCH: Former Williamson County deputies face manslaughter charges in Javier Ambler case


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