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HPD chief responds to civilian video of fatal officer-involved-shooting

HOUSTON – Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo said footage from seventy body cameras are being reviewed as part of the investigation into a deadly confrontation between several police officers and an east Houston man earlier this month. Acevedo also answered questions after a video of the final moments of the confrontation circulated on social media.

Nicolas Chavez, 27, was shot and killed by police on Gazin Street near the feeder road of the East Freeway on April 21.

“He’s had his days where he’d be moving around and not acting himself,” said Jessica Chavez, Nicolas’ wife.

Jessica Chavez said she believes her husband suffered from mental illness and she suspected drug use, even though she said he denied it. The night of the shooting, Jessica Chavez said her husband was acting differently — not violent — just differently. She said she left him at his mother’s house after running errands.

“I wasn’t for sure, I figured he was not being himself,” Jessica Chavez said.

“But it was enough to concern you didn’t want your daughter there?” asked KPRC 2 Investigator Robert Arnold.

“It was enough to concern me to keep my daughter, get my daughter away from the situation,” Jessica Chavez said.

That evening, Houston police responded to a report that a man was trying to kill himself by walking into traffic along I-10. Police said for 15 minutes, officers tried to get Nicolas Chavez to surrender. Police said Chavez threatened officers with what they thought was a knife, but later determined was a piece of rebar. Officers also said Nicolas Chavez cut himself with the rebar.

“From what the funeral home says, there was three stab wounds. But I didn’t necessarily believe he was trying to kill himself,” said Jessica Chavez. “It was just a scream for help. He probably needed some kind of mental help.”

Police said Chavez was shot after “bean bag” rounds and tasers failed to subdue him and he continued advancing toward officers.

Video of the last minute and 20 seconds of the confrontation was shot by a neighbor. The video shows Chavez sitting in a ditch before trying to get to his feet and advance on an officer with an object in his hand. Two loud pops are heard and Chavez falls down. He then raises up on his knees, crawls a short distance and throws some type of object at the officers. Chavez is then seen pulling something toward his body, grabbing some type of object. As he begins to raise the object, multiple gunshots are heard. Chavez falls back to the ground.

“I’ve got some concerns that I will not be able to say whether it’s justified or not until I finish getting into what people knew, what they perceived,” said Acevedo. “I’ve got some tough questions to ask. They may be answered, they may not be answered, but the only way we’re going to know is by letting the investigation take its course.”

Acevedo would not elaborate on specifically what concerned him about how the incident was handled. He did caution that the video circulating online only shows the end of a very long confrontation, but admits “it is tough to watch.”

Officers fired three separate times during the confrontation in addition to the tasers and “bean bag” rounds, he said. What Chavez was seen pulling on the ground were taser wires attached to the prongs fired at him and the object he is seen grabbing is a taser, he said. Acevedo said officers ordered him multiple times not to touch the device.

A sergeant who has been with HPD 11 years, an officer who had been with HPD 2 years and three officers who had been with the department 1 year each were involved in the shooting and all have been placed on administrative leave, which is standard protocol during an investigation, Acevedo said.

No timetable was given as to when the investigation would be complete.

“It makes me hurt deep down inside because he is my husband and I do love him and I do care for him,” said Jessica Chavez.

Jessica Chavez said despite past arrests, Nicolas Chavez was a good man and a domestic violence incident in October between the pair was a “misunderstanding.” The charges in that case were dropped.

“He loved everybody, he was a loving caring person, anybody came to him needing help he was there to help, he would give the shirt off his back if he needed to,” said Jessica Chavez. “It seemed like he wasn’t in his right mind, but then again, in my heart, I don’t feel they should have shot him the way they did.”

The Houston Police Officer’s Union also released a statement:

The Houston Police Officers' Union issued a statement about an officer-involved-shooting that left a man dead on April 21, 2020.
The Houston Police Officers' Union issued a statement about an officer-involved-shooting that left a man dead on April 21, 2020. (KPRC)