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Four Houston police officers fired for fatal shooting of mentally ill man who reached for one of their stun guns


The union says it was a 'suicide by cop' situation

Photo By Raymond Boyd/Getty Images

Four Houston Police Department officers were fired this week over the fatal shooting of a man apparently experiencing a mental illness episode in April, ABC News reported.

The identities of the officers have not been revealed, but the police union condemned the firings and said the officers had no choice but to use deadly force when they shot and killed Nicolas Chavez.

"What happened to Nicolas Chavez was a tragedy," Houston Police Officers Union president Joe Gamaldi said. "(He was) a man who was clearly struggling from mental illness or a possible overdose and as a result forced our officers into a suicide-by-cop scenario. ... They used every non-lethal option available ... all while giving verbal commands to Mr. Chavez to give up peacefully. They begged and pleaded with Mr. Chavez to give up for the entire 15 minutes and to no avail. As Mr. Chavez stated several times, he wanted the officers to shoot and kill him."

What happened?

On April 21, police responded to a call about a possibly suicidal man running in traffic and threatening bystanders.

According to Gamaldi, the officers confronted Chavez and attempted to verbally convince him to surrender. Police said they also used stun guns and bean bag rounds, but Chavez would not stand down.

Police say Chavez was holding a piece of metal, and he got his hands on a stun gun that one of the officers dropped and pointed it at them.

Body camera footage of the shooting was played during a Thursday news conference and viewed by the Houston Chronicle. Chavez appeared to be on his knees when he was shot while reaching for a used stun gun, which three of the officers allegedly did not know had been used already.

Officers fired a total of 24 rounds at Chavez, said Police Chief Art Acevedo.

"You will hear these officers pleading with (Chavez), 'Please don't do this. Please don't do it,'" HPOU executive director Ray Hunt said, according to KPRC-TV. "You will also hear the sergeant, after he shoots (Chavez), use profanity because he is so upset that he had to finally do this ... This is an outrage for these four officers, but you know what, they're just a number."

An independent review board determined that the shooting was justified and that the officers didn't need to be disciplined, but Acevedo opted to fire them anyway.

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