Nicolas Chavez’s family was not told the four officers who killed him were being reinstated until Police Chief Troy Finner made the announcement this week, his father said Tuesday.
Joaquín Chavez – the father of Nicolas Chavez, 27, who was shot 21 times by police and killed – said no one contacted the family before the announcement and he was taken aback by reinstatement police officers.
“They killed a child, a man, a father, a son, without any consideration,” he said. “Two years later, they get their jobs back.”
At a press conference with the Greater Houston Justice Coalition on Tuesday, Chavez said he and his family were not alerted to the reinstatement until Finner announced it to the media on Monday. The family was also not told what was going on behind closed doors during the suspension arbitration.
When asked Monday if he had spoken with the Chavez family, Finner said he was unable to do so due to ongoing litigation over Chavez’s death. The Chavez family has named the city, HPD and the officers who shot and killed Nicolas Chavez in a $100 million federal lawsuit.
Although Finner was not involved in the decision to fire the officers, he agreed with Chief Art Acevedo’s assessment at the time that the men had broken department rules – although Finner declined to say whether he thought the layoffs were justified.
“I believe there was evidence of policy violations,” Finner said.
Activists are calling on Attorney General Merrick Garland to intervene in a US Justice Department investigation.
Johnny Mata of the Greater Houston Coalition for Justice said he spoke with local congressional officials about arranging a meeting between the Chavez family, community activists and the AG.
“It’s time for elected officials, appointed officials, to start taking cases like the death of Nicolas Chavez seriously,” he said.
Mata said he first contacted Garland’s office to intervene after a grand jury declined to indict the four officers in Chavez’s September death. Officers shot Chavez 21 times, saying he was looking for a used stun gun they had previously shot Chavez with shotgun bullets.
The HPD Northeast Patrol officers, including the four who were reinstated – Patrick Rubio, Omar Tapia, Luis Alvarado and Sgt. Benjamin LeBlanc – were among those who responded to 911 calls about an armed and possibly suicidal man crossing traffic near 800 Gazin Street on April 21, 2020.
When they arrived, police say they found Chavez holding a steel-reinforced bar. The video shows Chavez on his knees when he was shot and killed.
Acevedo suspended the officers involved in the shooting, but Finner announced Monday they would be reinstated after an outside arbitrator determined the city failed to meet the standard of proof to justify the firing. The officers, who have appealed their dismissals, will receive 18 months back pay.
In a statement to KHOUMayor Sylvester Turner said he was disturbed by what he saw on the video.
“It’s important that before we consider putting these officers back on the streets that they are retrained and fully understand the policies of this city,” Turner said. “Mr. Chavez’s family has lost a loved one, and even though the examiner has reinstated these officers, no one should be happy under these circumstances.”
Finner said the men would undergo additional training before returning to the streets.
Local activist Jamie Torres said the shooting is proof that nothing has changed since his brother, Joe Campo Torres, was killed by Houston police officers in 1977.
“The justice system has failed another family yet again,” Torres said.
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