On January 2, Chicago Police Department officer Lowell Houser shot and killed Jose Nieves, a 38-year-old unarmed Latinx man. Yesterday (January 18), the officer, who is Black and was off-duty at the time of the shooting, was arrested on a charge of first-degree murder.
BREAKING: The Cook County State’s Attorney charges an off-duty Chicago Police Officer with first degree murder: pic.twitter.com/Wtf3Yovs4N
— Dan Lopez (@4danlopez) January 18, 2017
Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office spokesperson Sandra Simonton told the Chicago Tribune that the officer argued with the victim prior to the fatal shooting. DNA Info reports that Houser’s “female companion” lives in the same building as Nieves, and that on December 11, the younger man filed a police report that alleged that the officer pulled a gun on him. The site offers this account of the events on January 2, as stated by assistant state’s attorney Lynn McCarthy in bond court today (January 19):
Houser was leaving his companion’s apartment when he spotted Nieves and a pal unloading boxes from two parked cars in the 2500 block of North Lowell Avenue, prosecutors said.
Houser got into his car, the prosecutor said, rolled down the window and began asking the friend questions: “Who are you? Why are you helping him? Are you his mother? You know he treats women badly?”
When Nieves’ friend told Nieves about the remarks, Nieves walked toward Houser to say “that if had a problem with Nieves, he should talk to Nieves,” McCarthy said in court.
A neighbor who’d been watching TV heard arguing and looked out his window to see Houser and Nieves both standing in the street, yelling, prosecutors said.
The neighbor returned to watching TV only to hear a loud “bang” moments later, according to McCarthy.
The neighbor looked out the window to see Houser pointing a gun toward Nieves, prosecutors said. The neighbor then heard two more loud bangs and saw Nieves clutch at his chest before falling to the ground.
Houser immediately called 911 and said, “Yeah, this is Officer Houser. I have an emergency. A gentleman tried to attack me. I had to shoot him,” prosecutors said.
The neighbor never saw Houser and Nieves engaged in any physical contact, McCarthy said, and the only weapon on the scene was Houser’s Glock 40 handgun.
Houser, 57, has been with the department for 28 years. He was suspended without pay the day after the shooting. The Tribune reports that he has been suspended several times and been the subject of at least 20 disciplinary investigations. Per DNA Info, the bond court judge ruled that he can be released on home monitoring. WGN reports that his bond was set at $150,000.
Nieves’ family filed a lawsuit against the police department days after the shooting, alleging that Houser “illegally detained and threatened to arrest and physically harm” Nieves in the moments before he killed him.
*Updated to include the bond amount.