Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner on Thursday announced the firing of four Houston police officers over the shooting death of Nicolas Chavez.
Officers Benjamin LeBlanc, Luis Alvarado, Omar Tapia and Patrick Rubio were “indefinitely suspended” over the shooting of Chavez after the Houston Police Department concluded its investigation into the incident. All four officers have filed appeals, according to NBC affiliate KPRC.
“No one should conclude that the dismissal of these officers is an indictment on [the Houston Police Department], of the 5,300 police officers,” Turner said at a Thursday press conference. “But when you are wrong, there are consequences.”
Officers shot Chavez — a 27-year-old father of three who reportedly had a history of mental illness — after locals called 911 on April 21 to report a disoriented person who was apparently endangering himself by stepping into highway traffic.
Nicolas Chavez with his son.Courtesy of Joaquin Chavez
After officers arrived, a standoff ensued and Chavez appeared to harm himself with a sharp object, according to video and police accounts. Officers pleaded with him, deployed tasers and shot him with bean bag rounds. They then shot 24 rounds of live ammunition into him, the police investigation found.
Of the 24 shots, only the first 3 were found by the police investigation to be justified because Chavez allegedly grabbed a taser gun after pulling it toward him by its electrode wire.
Get a head start on the morning's top stories.Sign Up
The final 21 shots, the report concluded, were not reasonable because they were fired after Chavez was incapacitated by electric shocks, bean bag rounds and three live rounds.
In a nearly 17 minute-long video that was edited and narrated by the Houston Police Department, officers are seen from multiple angles throughout the incident. The video was released after HPD’s investigation concluded.
A bystander video of Chavez’s shooting was released soon after he was killed on April 21. In it, Chavez appeared to be kneeling before officers in the moments before he was shot and killed.
After his father, Joaquín Chavez, saw the video in April, he described it to NBC News as “an execution.”
“He was on his knees, already wounded,” Joaquín Chavez said, calling at the time for police body camera videos to be released. “He wasn’t a threat to anybody at that point.”
“I’m thrilled,” Chavez told NBC News on Friday. “Thrilled that chief Acevedo made the decision to terminate the officers who killed my son and that we’re finally getting some justice in this whole situation. In my mind, this is just the beginning.”
Chavez said he believes each of the officers who fired on his son at the end of the encounter should face criminal charges.
“I feel for them,” Chavez said. “I get that this is hard for everyone. But at the end of the day, they get to go home, and my son is dead.”
The Houston Police Officers’ Union called the firings “unjust and deplorable” and accused Chavez of forcing “our officers into a suicide-by-cop scenario,” according to NBC affiliate KPRC.
Douglas Griffith, vice president of the Houston Police Officers’ Union, said his organization’s attorneys will represent the four officers at their arbitration, whose initial date has yet to be set.
“We look forward to the day when they get their jobs back,” Griffith told NBC News.
Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg said in a statement that she met with Chavez’s parents and promised that the Civil Rights Division prosecutors would “review all evidence in his death.”
“Once we complete our review, we will present the case directly to a grand jury,” Ogg said. “That grand jury will determine whether the Houston Police officers who shot Nicolas Chavez were justified or whether they committed a crime.”