A grand jury has declined to indict four Houston Police Department officers who lost their jobs over the fatal shooting of Nicolas Chavez, a mentally ill man who was shot in 2020 after reportedly pointing a stun gun at officers.
What are the details?
According to a Monday report from KPRC-TV, a Harris County, Texas, grand jury declined to indict the four officers, Luis Alvarado, Omar Tapia, Patrick Rubio, and Benjamin LeBlanc, following an internal affairs investigation into Chavez's shooting death, saying that there was no probable cause to bring criminal charges against them.
Authorities in April 2020 responded to a call for a mental health crisis when they encountered Chavez, 27.
Chavez was said to be suffering a mental or emotional breakdown and was reportedly seen screaming and “throwing himself in front of cars.” One caller who reported Chavez's erratic behavior described the decedent as being in possession of an unknown “metal tube.”
Video footage of the incident shows the responding officers attempting to quell Chavez's frenzy, telling him, ‘Hey, buddy, hey bud, we're here to help you, man.”
Another was heard saying, “No one is shooting, just calm down.”
After Chavez apparently refused to comply with orders, officers fired bean-bag rounds at Chavez and deployed Taser guns, which, according to KPRC had “little effect.”
At one point, a responding officer said that the object in Chavez's hadn't appeared to be a knife; however, investigators later determined that the object was a sharp piece of metal that Chavez had been using to cut himself during his episode.
Footage then shows two of the officers shoot Chavez twice as he began advancing on one of the officers while another officer deployed a stun gun once more.
“As Chavez was crawling on the ground and stabbing himself with the metal object, an officer deployed additional bean bag rounds,” the station's report added. “Chavez is seen throwing the metal object at officers before grabbing the wires of a Taser that was lying on the ground and pulling the device toward him.”
Throughout the fit, Chavez could be heard screaming about wanting to die.
At that point, the four officers discharged their weapons at Chavez and struck him multiple times.
A total of 24 shots were fired during the 15-minute encounter with Chavez, who died as a result of the incident.
Following the incident, all four officers were relieved of their duties despite the police union's president insisting that the officers did not want to use deadly force and repeatedly had tried to de-escalate the situation.
What did the district attorney say?
In a statement on the decision, Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg said, “In officer-involved shootings, grand jurors have a range of options, from criminally negligent homicide to murder, and a range of defense considerations, including self-defense and defense of a third person. Civil Rights Division prosecutors presented all the evidence to ensure grand jurors were fully informed prior to making a decision. Our heart goes out to the Chavez family over the loss of their loved one. We respect the grand jury's decision.”
She added, “The primary question for a grand jury in a police shooting is, ‘Did officers act reasonably?' Grand jurors are supposed to apply the law to the facts and reach a decision on probable cause. We use this process to ensure that the community decides whether or not police should be charged in on-duty killings.”
The incident was captured on bodycam footage and in part by a bystander's cell phone.
The video, which is age-restricted for its graphic content, can be viewed here.
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