Houston Police Department fires four officers in connection to Nicolas Chavez shooting

Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo announced the firing of four officers Sept. 10 in connection with the death of Nicholas Chavez. (Courtesy HTV)
Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo announced the firing of four officers Sept. 10 in connection with the death of Nicholas Chavez. (Courtesy HTV)

Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo announced the firing of four officers Sept. 10 in connection with the death of Nicholas Chavez. (Courtesy HTV)

Four Houston police officers were fired for their roles in the shooting death of Houston man Nicolas Chavez, city officials announced Sept. 10.

The incident occurred April 21 when officers responded to 911 calls indicating a man was walking along I-10 near Lockwood Drive in Northeast Houston, disrupting traffic.

When the officers arrived, they attempted to de-escalate the scene by keeping distance and speaking calmly, both elements of the training they receive for such situations, Acevedo said.

“For a good part of this, everything was consistent with the training of our men and women,” he said. “They responded to a man in crisis, suicidal person. ... They were trying to [de-escalate], remaining calm, maintaining distance.”

During the incident, Chavez was seen with a sharp object and was, at times, cutting himself with it, the video shows.

In the 15-minute encounter, officers struck Chavez with bean-bag rounds and tasers. Several minutes into the encounter, an officer fired when Chavez approached him with a sharp object, which Acevedo stated was an “objectively reasonable action.”

After that, three officers collectively fired a second round of 21 shots total, which was deemed not to be “objectively reasonable.”

The officers shot Chavez after nearly 30 additional officers had already arrived at the scene, Acevedo said.

“The taser itself was empty; both of the cartridges were discharged,” Acevedo said. “It's objectively not reasonable to use deadly force when a man has already been shot multiple times, has been tased and is on the ground and really can’t get up.”

Joe Gamaldi, president of the Houston Police Officers Union, said that proper vetting of the incident was not performed and that officers were following de-escalation training guidelines.

"[The officers] know this chief will not back them if they make a mistake and will not protect them even if they follow the law," Gamaldi said at an an earlier Houston Police Officers Union press conference.

Union representatives called on Mayor Sylvester Turner to reinstate the officers, but Turner said he supported the chief's decision.

“We can’t say you did a great job for the first two thirds or three quarters, but that last quarter—you got it wrong,” Acevedo said.

The video’s release comes as police departments across the nationhave faced a national reckoning in use-of-force tactics, sparked by the death of Houstonian George Floyd in Minneapolis in May.

“This is not an indictment on 5,300 police officers, but it does say for our city that we are all accountable and that's the important piece,” Turner said, at times through tears. “Otherwise you endanger police officers, and the community loses trust.”

Speaking at the Sept. 10 press conference, Turner said he agreed with Chief Acevedo's decision and that he has confidence in the chief's leadership.

Instead of reducing funding for the department, as has been called for by many activists, Turner formed a police reform task force. He further indicated at the press conference that he was "99.9% certain that a revamp of the Independent Police Oversight Board, which reviews police shootings, would be part of the task force's recommendations.

HPOU Secretary Ray Hunt criticized the firings and said that the IBOP’s recommendations in the case were not taken into consideration.

The incident itself will not result in any specific policy changes because the second round of shots fired contradicted training use-of-force policy that is already in place, Acevedo said.

Robert Gallegos, the Houston City Council member representing District I, where the shooting took place, said the incident underscores the need to invest in more crisis intervention outside of armed law enforcement.

“We should be sending more mental health professionals to a psychiatric crisis, not just armed law enforcement officers. The police alone are not the right people to intervene in psychological crises. It is not the right way to enhance public safety and will not lead to good results," Gallegos said in the written statement.

The evidence in the case is under review by the Harris County District Attorney’s Office.
By Emma Whalen
Emma is Community Impact Newspaper's Houston City Hall reporter. Previously, she covered public health, education and features for several Austin-area publications. A Boston native, she is a former student athlete and alumna of The University of Texas at Austin.


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