Officials in Houston have fired four police officers involved in the fatal shooting of a man on April 21. Officers were responding to a call about a disturbed individual who was running through traffic on a highway.
When deputies arrived at the scene, they encountered 27-year-old Nicolas Chavez in a parking lot. Chavez was armed with a metal object, and officers believed he might try to harm himself. They tried to calm him down for nearly 15 minutes and attempted to use stun guns and bean bag rounds to subdue him. Throughout the encounter, officers fired a total of 24 shots at Chavez. The final barrage of 21 shots came after he was on the ground. It was those final shots that made Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo decide to fire four of the officers involved.
"The discharge of those 21 shots by those four members are not objectively reasonable," Acevedo said. "I don't consider them objectively reasonable; the chain of command does not consider them objectively reasonable, and I believe anyone that watches this ... would see they had a lot of opportunities and a lot of other options readily available to them."
He said that after reviewing body camera footage, he believes the officers did not need to keep shooting Chavez once he was on the ground.
"I believe that anyone that watches this tape, and sees this, will see they had a lot of opportunities and a lot of other options readily available to them that we, as long as I'm the police chief of this city, I will expect my officers to take," Acevedo said.
The police union blasted the decision to fire the officers and said the shooting was justified.
"What happened to Nicolas Chavez was a tragedy," union president Joe Grimaldi said. "(He was) a man who was clearly struggling from mental illness or a possible overdose and, as a result, forced our officers into a suicide-by-cop scenario."
He pointed out that the officers spent 15 minutes trying to deescalate the situation and used non-lethal rounds first.
"They used every non-lethal option available ... all while giving verbal commands to Mr. Chavez to give up peacefully," Grimaldi said. "They begged and pleaded with Mr. Chavez to give up for the entire 15 minutes and to no avail. As Mr. Chavez stated several times, he wanted the officers to shoot and kill him."
Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner countered by pointing out that Chavez was only a threat to himself.
"Mr. Chavez posed a threat to himself," he said. "And he too could have lived and could have gotten the help that he desperately needed."
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