A&E has pulled the plug on its popular “Live P.D.” police show amid the ongoing George Floyd protests, two days after Texas media reported that the show had destroyed footage of a man being arrested and dying in custody in March 2019.
“This is a critical time in our nation’s history and we have made the decision to cease production on Live PD,” the network said in a statement on Wednesday. “Going forward, we will determine if there is a clear pathway to tell the stories of both the community and the police officers whose role it is to serve them. And with that, we will be meeting with community and civil rights leaders as well as police departments.”
The decision to send the show into retirement comes two days after the Austin American-Statesman and KVUE-TV broke the story that during a shoot in 2019, “Live P.D.” cameras recorded sheriff’s deputies tasing 40-year-old Javier Ambler while he begged for his life. The man died. The show later destroyed the footage.
The network said in a statement to the Statesman that “video of the tragic death of Javier Ambler was captured by body cams worn on the officers involved as well by the producers of Live PD who were riding with certain officers involved.”
As for the destroyed footage, the network told the Statesman “as is the case with all footage taken by Live PD producers, we no longer retained the unaired footage after learning that the investigation had concluded.” The footage never aired, the network said. Host Dan Abrams expressed regret over the lost footage and wrote, “given what happened, I wish the tape had been preserved.”
Abrams reacted to the cancellation news on Twitter, writing, “Shocked & beyond disappointed about this. To the loyal #LivePDNation please know I, we, did everything we could to fight for you, and for our continuing effort at transparency in policing. I was convinced the show would go on.”
In a follow-up, Abrams said he regretted
“Given what happened, I wish the tape had been preserved and the policy should have had an exception for this sort of situation,” he said. “Many of us were advocating for a change in the policy before the show was canceled.”
According to the Statesman, deputies attempted to pull Ambler over because he hadn’t dimmed the headlights on his vehicle, which turned into a 20-minute car chase. After Ambler was apprehended, he was held down and repeatedly tased by officers even as he told them he had congestive heart failure and pleaded “save me,” according to an internal investigative report the Statesman obtained under the Texas Public Information Act.
The paper detailed the struggle and Ambler’s last moments:
“I am not resisting,” Ambler cries. “Sir, I can’t breathe. … Please. … Please.”
The deputies, who are on top of Ambler, continue yelling at him to put his arms behind his back.
“Save me,” Ambler cries.
“Do what we’re asking you to do!” a deputy yells.
“I can’t,” Ambler says, the last words the video captures from him just before one of the deputies deploys his Taser a fourth and final time at 1:47 a.m.
The case is under investigation, but investigators say that “Live PD” producers “have repeatedly stonewalled their efforts to obtain evidence or interviews with the officers involved,” the Statesman said.
A&E didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment from TheWrap.
The move follows a decision by Paramount Network to cancel the long-running “Cops” ahead of its 33rd season earlier this week.
Last week, A&E pulled two episodes of “Live PD” from its schedule in response to the anti-police protests taking place across the nation in the wake of the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis in May. At the time, the network said the decision was made “out of respect for the families of George Floyd and others who have lost their lives.”
Earlier in the week, Abrams assured the show’s fans that it would be back soon, writing on Twitter, “To all of you asking whether #LivePD coming back. . .The answer is yes. All of us associated with the show are as committed to it as ever. We are still discussing some specifics but I want to assure the #LivePDNation that we are not abandoning you.”
“Live P.D.” had been a success for A&E since its debut. Just over a month ago, the network picked up 160 more episodes of the series to air throughout the 2020-21 season.
“Live PD” is produced by Big Fish Entertainment for A&E. Dan Cesareo, Lucilla D’Agostino and John Zito executive produce for Big Fish, while for A&E Network, executive producers are Elaine Frontain Bryant, Shelly Tatro, Sean Gottlieb and Brad Abramson.