Family files $100 million civil suit after deadly officer-involved shooting of Nicolas Chavez

Neighbors react to decision to fire 4 HPD officers following Nicolas Chavez shooting
Neighbors react to decision to fire 4 HPD officers following Nicolas Chavez shooting

HOUSTON – The family of a man who was killed in an officer-involved on April 21, 2020, has filed a $100 million civil lawsuit Tuesday, according to Sean Roberts, the family’s attorney.

The lawsuit follows a day after Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo announced his departure from the department. Acevedo was sworn in Monday morning as Miami’s new top cop.

READ: Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo: The biggest events of his career with HPD

The lawsuit lists Chavez’s three minor children, his parents, Joaquin and Leantha Chavez, and wife, Jessica Chavez, as plaintiffs. Alongside the Houston Police Department, the lawsuit also names the city of Houston, all five officers involved in the shooting -- Luis Alvarado, Benjamin LeBlanc, Kevin Nguyen, Omar Tapia, and Patrick Rubio -- as individual defendants.

READ: Nicolas Chavez’s parents react to release of bodycam video, dismissal of officers

Police said they believed the 27-year-old had a “pointed object” and charged at officers. A total of 24 shots were fired. Protesters and some of Chavez’s family members have said he was suffering a mental health crisis when he was shot by the officers.

The story of Chavez drew national headlines after a cellphone video recorded by a witness appeared to show Chavez on his knees when he was shot by officers. In September, during a news conference, Acevedo showed the video recorded by several different body cameras worn by officers at the scene of the shooting. The nearly 15-minute video started with 911 calls and ended with Chavez getting shot. It was redacted for time, so the parts where nothing was happening were cut out, Acevedo said.

READ: Acevedo releases bodycam video of Nicolas Chavez shooting, says he ‘cannot defend that’

In September, four Houston police officers were fired in connection with the fatal officer-involved shooting of Chavez nearly four months after the incident.

READ: 4 Houston police officers fired in connection with fatal shooting of Nicolas Chavez identified

Acevedo released the “indefinite suspension” letters of the four officers and identified them as Benjamin LeBlanc, Luis Alvarado, Omar Tapia and Patrick Rubio. Acevedo said all four officers have filed appeals and that he planned to fight them. In May, Acevedo confirmed to KPRC 2 Investigates that the Feds were looking into the case in addition to the investigation being conducted by the Harris County District Attorney’s office.

Acevedo said that while he believes most of the actions by the officers were reasonable and justified, he said he cannot defend the 21 shots that were fired at the end of the confrontation with Chavez. He said he believes Chavez no longer posed a threat to officers because he was too weak to stand.

“We applaud Houston Police Department’s termination of the officers that unjustifiably executed Mr. Chavez,” said Sean Roberts, the family’s attorney. “This case highlights the degree of poor policies related to policing and responding to mentally ill citizens as well as inadequate fitness and training of too many of our police officers tasked with dealing with difficult confrontations. This case demonstrates that all citizens, regardless of race, are at risk of excessive use of force by the police and something has to be done to stop this disturbing pattern, beginning with a deep dive into HPD’s flawed policies regarding use of deadly force for the sake of a civilized society.”

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