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Houston PD fires four officers involved in fatal OIS, video shows they used all de-escalation tactics

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Jessica Schladebeck

New York Daily News

Four Houston police officers have been fired over their involvement in the fatal shooting of Nicolas Chavez, who appears to be having some sort of break down in newly released bodycam footage of the April incident.

Officers with the Houston Police Department were responding to multiple 911 calls on April 21 when they came across 27-year-old Chavez. Witnesses told authorities he had been running in and out of traffic on the highway before their arrival.

Police Chief Art Acevedo announced their firings on Thursday while showing video of the violent 15-minute confrontation, which sees officers shooting Chavez with stun guns and bean bags before firing off dozens of rounds of gunfire, Click2Houston reported.

Police said Chavez had a “pointed object” when they arrived on the scene, which he was using to repeatedly stab himself.

In the clip, police can also be heard attempting to calm Chavez.

Despite repeated warnings in addition to the non-lethal use of force, Chavez was still “armed with a metal object and began moving quickly toward” the first officer, who then discharged his firearm alongside one of the other officers.

A police statement issued at the time said he then crawled toward a dropped stun gun and pointed it at officers who, “fearing for their lives,” fired at him.

Acevedo called the first round of gunfire “objectionably reasonable,” while the final barrage of 21 shots by remaining four officers was not, ABC News reported.

“The discharge of those 21 shots by those four members are not objectively reasonable,” Acevedo said.

“I don’t consider them objectively reasonable; the chain of command does not consider them objectively reasonable and I believe anyone that watches this will see they had a lot of opportunities and a lot of other options readily available to them that we, as long as I’m the police chief of this city, I will expect my officers to take would see they had a lot of opportunities and a lot of other options readily available to them.”

The Houston chief added, “You don’t get to shoot somebody 21 times because at that time, when we discharged those 21 rounds, Mr. Chavez was at his greatest level of incapacitation.”

Leaders with the Houston Police Officers’ Union denounced the firings, saying the officers had followed their training and tried to de-escalate the situation before turning to lethal force.

A total of 22 slugs and fragments were recovered from Chavez’s body, according to Acevedo, who noted that ethanol, methamphetamine and amphetamine had been found in his system.

A complete ballistics report is expected at the end of the month, he said.

Durrel Douglas, the executive director of the activist group Houston Justice, told the New York Times on Thursday the firings demonstrated “common sense and a step in the right direction” for the police.

“When it comes to situations where there are already multiple officers on the scene, and clearly this was an individual who demonstrated some sort of mental illness, there was nothing wrong with waiting this guy out even longer,” Douglas said.

“Common sense tells you if the guy is reaching for a Taser, a Taser is not a lethal weapon, even if that was the case.”

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