Who was Nicolas Chavez? 4 Houston police officers fired after shooting man during alleged mental health crisis

Who was Nicolas Chavez? 4 Houston police officers fired after shooting man during alleged mental health crisis
Nicolas Chavez (GoFundMe)

Four Houston police officers were fired on Thursday, September 10 after a months-long investigation of a fatal shooting found that they were "objectively unreasonable" in discharging 21 bullet rounds at 27-year-old Nicolas Chavez.

On April 21 at around 9 pm, multiple officers responded to several 911 calls about a man who was running through highway traffic. Officers approached the man, who was later identified as Nicolas Chavez, in a parking lot, where he was running while holding a metal object, police said. During a roughly 15-minute interaction, officers shot Chavez with stun guns and bean bags while attempting to "stop him from harming himself," Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo said in a video compilation of the body-camera footage that was also released Thursday. Chavez kept moving toward the officers, who repeatedly told him to drop what they thought was a knife but turned out to be a piece of rebar, as reported by CBS. In a footage of the incident released, before the final burst of gunfire, Chavez is seen crawling and pulling at wires attached to a police Taser. "Don't do it," an officer is heard saying. The gunfire erupted as he cradled the Taser in his hand.

One of the officers, identified as Sergeant LeBlanc, fired the first two shots, after that, Chavez fell to the ground and in a few moments, he got up and again began moving toward the officers again holding the piece of rebar. Another officer then fired a third shot. While on the ground, Chavez is seen in the video reeling from one of the stun guns that had been used on him. After Chavez got a hold of the stun gun and pointed it at the officers, they fired 21 more shots, killing him.

On Thursday, Cesar Espinosa, executive director of FIEL, released a statement that read, "I have seen the full footage of the encounter between 28 HPD officers and Nicolas Chavez where the officers shot and killed Chavez. After watching the video, as a community member, I am thoroughly convinced that the Houston Police officers who shot Nicolas 21 times while on his knees were not justified in their actions. After hearing that Chief Acevedo has fired these 4 officers, we’ve been in contact with HPD and have expressed to them that this is a good first step in seeking justice for the Chavez family. We regret that this has taken so long but we encourage the community to keep pressure on HPD and the District Attorneys office so that these officers may be held accountable for their actions. We further condemn the words and actions by the Houston Police Officers Union and believe that their rhetoric thus far is only going to ignite more polarization and distrust from the community towards the police. We ask the community to remain peaceful while continuing to demand that the officers involved in this gruesome death be held accountable." Here is the link of the press conference.

Who was Nicolas Chavez?

Born on August 25, 1992, Nicolas Chavez was shot dead by 4 Houston police officers on April 21 this year. He had a history of mental illness and appeared to be on his knees before he was killed. Chavez has 3 children, two daughters, named, Adriana and Alicia and one son, Nicolas with Jennifer Thomson. Jennifer described him as, "A very intelligent person with one of the biggest hearts I've seen. He had a smile and dimples that u could brighten up anyone's darkest days. He was the type of person that could fit into any group and make friends with anyone. He is loved by so very many people and will be missed dearly but he will always be remembered in our hearts."

Chavez’s father, Joaquín Chavez, told NBC News and The Marshall Project in June that his son had struggled with prescription drug abuse and received a diagnosis of bipolar disorder. He added that he had seen the body camera footage and that he felt officers had acted with excessive force. "He was on his knees, already wounded. He wasn’t a threat to anybody at that point," he said. "It was an execution."

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