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HOUSTON (AP) — A grand jury has declined to indict four Houston police officers who fatally shot a man more than 20 times while he was in the midst of a mental health crisis.
The grand jury chose not to indict the officers, who had been fired after last year's death of Nicolas Chavez, 27. At the time, Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo — who has since taken over as Miami's police chief — said the officers did not follow departmental rules by failing to retreat and take cover when Chavez picked up a stun gun.
The Harris County Civil Rights Division presented evidence over a four-day period and the grand jury chose not to indict on various charges, including criminally negligent homicide and murder, the Houston Chronicle reported. District Attorney Kim Ogg said Monday that the grand jury also considered the issue of defense, 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,” Ogg said. “Our heart goes out to the Chavez family over the loss of their loved one. We respect the grand jury’s decision.”
Family members of Chavez and supporters have said that he was needlessly killed.
Those fired were identified as: officers Patrick Rubio, Luis Alvarado and Omar Tapia, and Sgt. Benjamin LeBlanc. They have appealed their firings.
“I’m happy the grand jury saw it the way it happened,” Houston Police Officers' Union president Doug Griffith said. “These officers acted in the way they were trained, and I’m looking forward to ... arbitration, so they can get their jobs back.”
The officers were responding to 911 calls that reported a man jumping fences and threatening bystanders. The officers opened fire when Chavez, who earlier told police that he was a patient at a mental health clinic, picked up a stun gun that one of the officers had dropped. He was shot more than 20 times, authorities have said.
Augie Pinedo, District 18 director of the League of United Latin American Citizens, compared Chavez's killing to one by a “firing squad.”
“We feel for the family who has been waiting months and months for justice to be done only to suffer a serious blow to their attempts to obtain justice for their loved one and closure for the family,” Pinedo said. “We can say without equivocation that justice failed today.”