Four police officers fired after Nicolas Chavez shooting appealing dismissal
The police union president accused the Houston police chief of using the fired officer as ‘political fodder’
Four Houston police officers fired in connection with the shooting death of a 27-year-old man have appealed their dismissals, according to media reports.
The terminations were announced at a Thursday news conference in which the Houston Police Department released police body camera footage showing the officers' April 21 encounter with Nicolas Chavez.
Houston police Chief Art Acevedo said former officers Patrick Rubio, Omar Tapia, Luis Alvarado and Benjamin LeBlanc were fired after an investigation revealed that 21 shots were fired at Chavez after a 15-minute altercation. Acevedo said the number of rounds fired was not "objectively reasonable."
Chavez was shot after a Taser and bean bag rounds failed to subdue him.
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"It's inexplicable to me, when they had plenty of opportunity to back up to continue doing what they were doing, for them to stay the line and shoot a man 21 times,” Acevedo said. “I cannot defend that.
“If that's how little you value life, I don't need you in this department,” he added.
The Houston Police Officers' Union denounced the dismissals amid a national reckoning over police practices.
"This truly was a tragedy,” union President Joe Gamaldi said at a separate news conference Thursday. “But the chief is now spreading that tragedy to four other families by unjustly firing these officers and using them as political fodder. This has sent a shockwave though our department, that even if you deescalate, even if you retreat, even if you follow policy, training and the law, you will still lose your job as a Houston police officer."
On the night of the shooting, the officers responded to reports of a suicidal man on a freeway screaming and dodging traffic. The officers used a Taser and bean bag rounds before firing live rounds, as Chavez was on his knees. He is accused of pulling an officer's Taser that had already been discharged at the time.
A visibly distraught Mayor Sylvester Turner said he agreed with the firings while reiterating his support for the police force.
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“The video is difficult to watch, and I have seen it several times,” Turner said. “It's difficult to watch without questioning why the shooting happened in the end, and wishing the encounter could have ended differently, and knowing that it should have had a different outcome.”
The Harris County District Attorney's Office is still investigating the shooting.