HOUSTON — The family of a man shot and killed by Houston police is suing the Houston Police Department, the City of Houston and five police officers for $100 million.
Nicolas Chavez’s death in April 2020 drew national attention after the release of cell phone video of that shooting.
“He was mentally ill, and what he needed most was help,” said Sean Roberts, the attorney for the Chavez family. “You’ve got children without a dad, and they’re hurting.”
Roberts said he filed the civil lawsuit in federal court Tuesday after trying to resolve the matter with the city.
He told KHOU 11 the timing lining up with Chief Art Acevedo announcing his departure from HPD is a coincidence.
The lawsuit accuses five police officers of violating Chavez’s due process. It also calls out HPD’s policy on the threat of Tasers.
“This has to get fixed for the sake of all of us,” Roberts said. “The fact that they felt justified shooting a man who had already been shot three times, bean-bagged and tased, 21 more times is the question that needs to be answered in this lawsuit.”
Police had responded to several 911 calls the night of April 21, 2020, about a possibly suicidal man in East Houston.
Nicolas Chavez was armed with a piece of rebar officers said they thought was a knife. For the next 15 minutes, officers say they retreated and tried to de-escalate the situation.
While on his knees, Chavez then grabbed a Taser that had already discharged both cartridges and pointed it at the officers. They fired 21 shots, killing him.
Chief Acevedo fired four officers in September.
“Quite frankly, it's inexplicable to me when they had plenty of opportunity to back up,” said Chief Acevedo, during a press conference announcing the firings and releasing body camera footage from the incident.
That same day, Joe Gamaldi, President of the Houston Police Officers Union, said those officers did everything they could to avoid shooting Chavez.
“It’s also clear that those officers were justified by policy, training, and the law,” Gamaldi said.
Gamaldi also said those officers did not know both Taser cartridges had been fired.
In response to the lawsuit, City of Houston officials told KHOU 11 on Wednesday, “Now that a lawsuit has been filed, it will run its course through the court.”
HPD officials referred KHOU 11 to the City Attorney’s Office, which does not comment or do interviews on pending litigation.
The Harris County District Attorney’s Office plans to present the case to a grand jury once they finish their review.