An arbitrator ruled that four Houston Police officers who were fired after fatally shooting Nicolas Chavez on April 21, 2020, must be reinstated. Chavez was shot by police after a confrontation in the Denver Harbor neighborhood in East Houston. The incident was captured by body cameras and a bystander’s cell phone video.
“The discharge of those 21 shots, for those four members of the Houston Police Department (HPD), are not objectively reasonable. It’s inexplicable to me, when they have plenty opportunity to back up and continue to be doing what they were doing, for them to stay the line and shoot a man 21 times,” then police chief Art Acevedo said at a news conference announcing the officers’ firing.
Cell phone video published online showed Chavez on his knees when was shot. The body camera video released by Houston police confirms that he was not charging police as they initially claimed in their reports. In all, 28 officers responded to the call. Four of those officers shot Chavez 21 times while he was in a vulnerable position. The officers fired after Chavez pulled on the leads from a taser that was laying on the ground after being used against him.
The initial press release to the media indicated Chavez “began charging at them” with a knife after trying non-lethal methods to subdue him. Even now, local media continues to echo Houston Police Officers Union (HPOU) statements, “Nicolas lunges for an empty taser and officers shot him more than 20 times, killing him.”
In a press conference held on March 14, 2022, announcing the reinstatement of the four officers, Chief Troy Finner said “HPD respects the arbitrator’s decision,” and, at the time, “there was evidence of policy violations.” Finner was not involved in any of the decision-making processes leading to disciplinary actions against any officers.
“The Sergeant and officers were made whole with full back pay and seniority. Upon seeing the evidence presented by our attorneys, the city determined that the Mayor and others were misled by our former chief to believe that these officers violated our policies and training at HPD, when in fact they had not,” The Houston Police Officers Union said in a statement released on Monday.
A Harris County Grand Jury declined to indict the officers. Prosecutors presented evidence over a four-day period, including body camera footage of the incident. The Chavez family has filed a $100 million lawsuit against the City of Houston, the Houston Police Department, and five of the officers involved in Chavez’s death: Luis Alvarado, Benjamin LeBlanc, Kevin Nguyen, Patrick Rubio, and Omar Tapia.
Officer Kevin Nguyen was not fired by HPD.
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