A police officer in Chicago was charged with first-degree murder on Wednesday for shooting and killing a man while he was off-duty, Chicago Tribune reports. Fifty-seven-year-old Lowell Houser was accused of shooting and killing 38-year-old Jose Nieves, who was moving into a new home on Chicago’s Northwest Side. Nieves was unarmed. Houser, a mass transit unit officer, allegedly got into an argument with Jose, and when the situation got tense, fired multiple shots at the man. The incident took place in the 2500 block of North Lowell Avenue in Hermosa at approximately 9:15 a.m. on January 2.This certainly hasn’t been the best of weeks for the Chicago Police Department. The murder charge comes only days after a federal report was released showing that the Chicago PD had a long history of using excessive force, covering-ups its mishaps, and a lack of proper training for its officers. The report showed that most of the victims of these crimes were Hispanic or Black.
Houser was charged on Wednesday with first-degree murder by New Cook County State attorney Kim Foxx. According to Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson, Houser had previously clashed with Nieves on multiple occasions, with the latest clash being a week before the murder. He also stated that at the time of the murder, Houser was in Hermosa visiting someone. Johnson refrained from further comments.
“I have a lot more questions than I do answers at this time.”
According to Anthony Guglielmi, a spokesperson for the Chicago PD, Houser had been stripped of his badge following the incident. Guglielmi had made a statement earlier last month regarding the Chicago PD’s stance on the incident.
“The Chicago Police Department turned the case over to the state’s attorney and the Independent Police Review Authority once the possibility of criminal violations were suspected. CPD will fully cooperate with the state’s attorney throughout the judicial process.”
Nieves reportedly lived on the Northwest Side of Chicago and worked in construction, as well as security for a bar. Nieves’s sister, Angelica Figueroa, spoke with CBS2, saying that although she agrees that a police officer has to open fire if his life is in danger, this wasn’t the case with Officer Houser and her brother.
“If you are an officer, and you are getting shot at, and your life is in danger, I understand,” she said. “But if a person doesn’t have a weapon, it doesn’t give you the right to take out your weapon and shoot at that person. It does not.”
Angelica has also started a GoFundMe page for the family, describing her brother, known affectionately as Cheo, to the world.
“My brother Cheo… was the type of person everybody wanted to hang around, great personality, happy, sweet, awesome sense of humor, thoughtful, and always smiling and would give you a monster hug that would leave you gasping for air. Cheo would even be your night in shining armor if you you needed him. He was so close to all his family and friends and had many that loved him. Cheo also had two fur babies that meant the world to him. This was a man that was always willing to help where he can if he could.”
Nieves’ family sued Houser and the City of Chicago following the incident. The family’s attorney, Andrew M. Stroth, made a statement after Houser was charged on Wednesday.
“The Nieves family is devastated by the loss of Jose. The state’s attorney’s action today will not bring back Jose but is an important and swift step in the criminal justice process.”
According to the Tribune, Lowell Houser had a long history of mishaps, having been under disciplinary investigation at least 20 times and suspended several times since the 1990s.