A man whose 2019 arrest was filmed for reality TV show Live PD is suing Williamson County, Texas, as he believes he was arrested in a ‘humiliating fashion’ to make for more entertaining TV.
Scott Lewis, 31, was arrested in Austin in January 2019 after a traffic stop and claims that he suffered a broken shoulder while in custody, which still causes him pain today, due to the excessive force used by deputies to show off for the TV cameras.
In his lawsuit, Lewis claims that he was detained for a ‘prolonged period of time’ so that the camera crews had time to arrive and that he was moved to a second location for ‘a more suitable filming environment’.
Live PD was canceled in June 2020 amid the unrest following George Floyd’s death in police custody, but Williamson County had canceled their contract with the show before this in August 2019.
Scott Lewis, 31, was arrested in Austin in January 2019 after a traffic stop (pictured above) and claims that he suffered a broken shoulder while in custody, which still causes him pain today, due to the excessive force used by deputies to show off for the TV cameras
Lewis is suing Williamson County claiming he was arrested more violently to make ‘more entertaining TV’. The suit claims that Lewis (pictured above) ‘suffered significant harm including the loss of his employment and significant emotional distress’ from the arrest
It came after the March 2019 death of Javier Ambler, 40, while in Williamson County deputies’ custody.
Ambler died after being tased and pleading with officers that he couldn’t breathe. His arrest was also filmed by Live PD although it never aired.
Lewis’ lawsuit references Ambler’s death as an example of the culture that had been cultivated around the show and how deputies were encouraged to escalate situations for the cameras.
It claims former Williamson County Sheriff Robert Chody would promote the show on social media and ‘encouraged and incentivized his officers to create more entertaining television’.
‘[Former] Sheriff Chody created a culture around the show that rewarded the escalation of conflict and violence,’ it reads.
‘This minor traffic offense was turned into television spectacle though an unnecessary police chase that turned deadly after the suspect surrendered to authorities and despite informing them of his health conditions was repeatedly tased and ultimately died as a result thereof,’ it adds of Ambler’s death.
Lewis also claims that deputies were in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act after they used excessive force, even after he had made them aware of his mental health issues.
He claims he had a panic attack while being assaulted and restrained by personnel at the jail and suffered a broken shoulder as a result.
‘As a result of being ridiculed on the show, [Lewis] suffered significant harm including the loss of his employment and significant emotional distress,’ the lawsuit reads.
Sheriff Robert Chody (pictured) was accused of destroying video evidence relating to the investigation into death in police custody of Javier Ambler in March 2019
Javier Ambler, 40, died in police custody in Austin last year while TV show Live PD was filming
In an interview with NBC last year, Lewis revealed that he had an increased dependence on alcohol to help him deal with anxiety in the lead up to his arrest.
It was among the aftereffects of a traumatic brain injury he sustained in a hit-and-run-accident.
Just weeks before the arrest, he had attended an inpatient rehabilitation program. Yet he relapsed and was driving drunk when pulled over by the Williamson County deputies.
In the clip aired of his arrest, Lt. Grayson Kennedy places him in handcuffs and points out that Lewis had urinated on himself.
It also shows Kennedy pinning Lewis against the car after he asks for his full name.
Lewis has claimed that Kennedy was not part of his initial arrest and only turned up with the camera crew.
Scott Lewis has been highly critical of the sheriff’s office following his arrest
He has accused them of trying to provoke him during the arrest so they could use force
‘I felt they were trying to instigate the situation so they could tase me, but I kept my composure,’ he says in a video posted to his YouTube channel.
‘I sat there, and I took all their verbal abuse … they wanted me to freak out so they could beat the s**t out of me and I knew that so I didn’t let it happen.
‘I wasn’t the most compliant in the jail, I can agree with that. I did not give them my name; they did not know who I was,’ he adds.
During the arrest, Lewis was wearing the sweatshirt of the high school lacrosse team he coached, and he lost his job several days later.
Former Williamson County Sheriff Robert Chody is accused of encouraging his deputies to use excessive force
He called his mom from jail who told him that after his 6.30pm arrest, it had aired at 8pm and members of his team had seen the show from a hotel room as they traveled for a tournament.
‘When people get arrested without cameras it’s often considered rock bottom,’ Lewis said, but claimed that having his arrest then broadcast sent him into an ‘absolute downward spiral.’
‘It was like a Rolodex in my head,’ Lewis said. ‘Anybody that I’ve ever talked to in my life. People that I haven’t thought of, and probably couldn’t think of again, just hundreds of people going through my head.’
‘I accept responsibility for a lot of things,’ added Lewis, who is now sober. ‘I just felt lucky that no one was hurt.’
In September 2020, the Texas Rangers revealed it was investigating five Williamson County use-of-force cases including Ambler’s arrest.
That month, former Sherriff Chody was indicted on a felony charge of tampering with evidence in relation to Ambler’s death. He is accused of destroying or concealing video evidence linked to the arrest.
Ambler’s family is also suing Williamson County.
He died after he was chased by Williamson County sheriff’s deputies for failing to dim his headlights to oncoming traffic.
The deputies pursued the father-of-two for 22 minutes into downtown Austin in a police chase that was captured on camera.
He was tasered multiple times during the encounter and was heard telling cops he couldn’t breathe before losing consciousness, body camera footage showed.
He was pronounced dead an hour later.
Body camera footage released in June showed Ambler telling deputies ‘I can’t breathe’ and that he has congestive heart failure as they deploy Tasers on him four times
Deputies performed CPR on Ambler (pictured above) until medical personnel arrived later
An autopsy revealed Ambler died in a homicide with congestive heart failure and hypertensive cardiovascular disease linked with morbid obesity ‘in combination with forcible restraint’
In a wrongful death lawsuit filed in the Western District of Texas, Ambler’s parents claim cops had used excessive force during their son’s arrest to ‘produce more “entertaining” content’ for the show.
The complaint also accuses Williamson County Sheriff Robert Chody of encouraging officers to engage in ‘dangerous’ police tactics for the sake of exciting television and rewarding officers ‘who had “good” uses of force’.
‘If Live PD producers considered a department “boring,” its activities would not be broadcast. Thus, Chody prioritized producing “exciting” content for Live PD over the health and safety of the County’s citizens,’ the complaint states.
Prosecutors in Austin have also separately launched an investigation into the use of force during the fatal police stop.
A&E has said its video never aired because of a policy against showing a death, and it did not keep the footage after it was informed that the initial investigation had closed.
‘The policy at Live PD had long been: We keep tapes, we keep video for a few weeks and then we don’t retain it any longer,’ Live PD host Dan Abrams told CNN.
‘Why? Because we feared that we were going to be used by law enforcement as a video repository, as a place to just go and grab videos to prosecute citizens with.
‘We didn’t want to be that, so there was a policy in place as to when and how to get rid of videos so that we wouldn’t serve in that role.’
Authorities had ‘then informed Live PD the investigation was over. That was a year ago,’ Abrams said.
‘Looking back on it – do I wish that Live PD had retained it? Yeah… but the policy was in place for exactly the opposite reason that many people are suggesting now.
‘The point is that the motivation here wasn’t a negative one, it wasn’t to try to hide things, it was to try to avoid becoming an arm of law enforcement as we were there following them.’
A&E Network scraped Live PD last year amid a wave of anti-police sentiment following the death of George Floyd.