HOUSTON – A sergeant and three other officers who were fired from the Houston Police Department for their roles in the 2020 deadly shooting of Nicolas Chavez are to be reinstated, according to the Houston Police Officers’ Union.
On Monday, HPOU released a statement saying the officers and sergeant were rightfully reinstated and were made whole with full payback and seniority. The union further stated that evidence from its attorneys determined that Mayor Sylvester Turner and others were misled by former Chief Acevedo to believe the officers violated the department’s policies.
Officers Luis Alvarado, Omar Tapia, Patrick Rubio and Sgt. Benjamin LeBlanc will now go back to work.
On April 21, 2020, Nicolas Chavez, 27, was killed by police in northeast Houston during a confrontation that was captured on bodycam video. Part of it was also captured on a bystander’s cellphone.
Former Houston police Chief Art Acevedo said that an autopsy showed that Chavez suffered a total of 29 entry or exit wounds, which included wounds from bullet fragments. He said Chavez also had methamphetamine and ethanol in his system.
The shooting caused an uproar from protesters and the family of Chavez, stating that he was suffering a mental health crisis when he was shot by the officers.
“They executed him,” Leantha Chavez, Nicolas’ mother said.
During the 2020 briefing, Acevedo said the officer’s actions were “inexplicable to (him) when they had plenty of opportunities to back up and continue to do what they were doing, for them to stay the line and shoot a man 21 times. I cannot defend that.”
Following an internal affairs investigation, four of the officers who fired their weapons at Chavez during the encounter were fired.
Houston Police Chief Troy Finner said the officers will go through reintegration training. He said they’ve made improvements, including more scenario-based training.
Leantha said their reinstatement is unacceptable.
“I feel sorry for the next mother’s son that’s out there having the same problem because they are just going to find it okay. It’s just okay for them to blow someone away,” said Leantha.
In May 2021, a civil suit was filed against the Houston Police Department, the City of Houston and five of the officers involved in the shooting -- Alvarado, LeBlanc, Tapia, Rubio and Kevin Nguyen -- on behalf of Chavez’s family.
In October 2021, a Harris County grand jury declined to indict the Houston police officers.
Mayor Sylvester Turner released the following statement Monday evening:
“I reviewed the video shortly after the shooting of Mr. Chavez and was disturbed by what I saw. The city dismissed the officers, but the independent hearing examiner has reinstated them.
“It is important that before any consideration is given to placing these officers back on the street, they be retrained and fully understand the policies of this city.
Mr. Chavez’s family lost a loved one, and even though the hearing examiner has reinstated these officers, no one should be rejoicing under the circumstances.”