4 Cops Were Just Fired For Shooting A Man 21 Times When He Was Already Down

The Houston Police Department has fired four of its offi­cers for killing an emo­tion­al­ly dis­tressed man who they shot a total of 24 times dur­ing a response to a 911 call in April. The major­i­ty of the shots were fired after the man was on the ground and inca­pac­i­tat­ed.
Police Chief Art Acevedo announced the con­clu­sion of the five-month-long inves­ti­ga­tion Thursday, show­ing body­cam footage of the inci­dent and call­ing the offi­cers’ actions “not 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,” Acevedo said in Thursday’s press con­fer­ence.
“You don’t get to shoot some­body 21 times, because at that time, when we dis­charged those 21 rounds, Mr. Chavez was at his great­est lev­el of inca­pac­i­ta­tion.”

On April 21, offi­cers Luis Alvarado, Omar Tapiam and Patrick Rubio and Sgt. Benjamin LeBlanc respond­ed to a 911 call about a dis­tressed man who was run­ning through traf­fic, enter­ing people’s prop­er­ty, and pos­si­bly ready to hurt him­self.

When police arrived, they found 27-year-old Nicolas Chavez walk­ing around a park­ing lot hold­ing what they first believed to be a knife and was lat­er iden­ti­fied as a piece of rebar. Bodycam footage shows that the offi­cers spent about 15 min­utes try­ing to deesca­late the sit­u­a­tion through non­lethal means and ver­bal com­mands. Eventually, after fir­ing bean­bags and stun guns at Chavez to no avail, LeBlanc is seen fir­ing two shots at Chavez.

Chavez, who was now sit­ting on the ground, con­tin­ued to advance toward the offi­cers against the ver­bal orders of the police. A sec­ond offi­cer fired anoth­er shot, hop­ing to stop Chavez from mov­ing any clos­er, but failed to deter him.

Finally, Chavez began to pull a stun gun that was still attached to his body toward him. Despite repeat­ed warn­ings from offi­cers to stop mov­ing, the dis­tressed man con­tin­ued to pull on the stun gun spring and grabbed a hold of the weapon, which prompt­ed the four offi­cers to fire a total of 21 shots. Chavez was killed in the hail of gun­fire.

Acevedo said that the sit­u­a­tion should have been han­dled dif­fer­ent­ly once Chavez was on the ground.

It’s inex­plic­a­ble to me, when they had plen­ty of oppor­tu­ni­ties to back up to con­tin­ue doing what they were doing,” the chief said. “For them to stay the line and shoot a man 21 times, I can­not defend that.”

Before the release of the police body­cam footage, a 47-sec­ond cell­phone video of the shoot­ing, filmed by a bystander, went viral on social media. Chavez’s death, like many oth­ers killed by police this year, sparked months of protests in Houston, as both the pub­lic and Chavez’s fam­i­ly demand­ed the release of police body­cam footage of the dead­ly police encounter.

Chavez’s fam­i­ly lat­er told local news out­let KHOU-11 that their rel­a­tive had a his­to­ry of men­tal ill­ness. Toxicology reports also revealed that Chavez had metham­phet­a­mine, amphet­a­mine, and ethanol in his sys­tem the night of the shoot­ing.

The local Houston Police Officers’ Union pushed back against the fir­ings. Union President Joe Gamaldi reaf­firmed that the four offi­cers did every­thing they could to help Chavez before tak­ing lethal action.

This unjust and deplorable deci­sion by Chief Acevedo has sent a shock wave through HPD. Even if you deesca­late, retreat, fol­low pol­i­cy, train­ing, and the law…you will still lose your job as a Houston Police Officer,” Gamaldi tweet­ed ThursdayThough the offi­cers involved have been fired, the shoot­ing is still being inves­ti­gat­ed by the Harris County District Attorney’s Office. District Attorney Kim Ogg has said pub­licly that she plans to present the case before a grand jury to deter­mine whether the offi­cers involved com­mit­ted a pun­ish­able crime.

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