CHICAGO (CBS) — A 57-year-old Chicago police officer has been charged with murder in the fatal shooting of a 37-year-old man during a confrontation in the Hermosa neighborhood earlier this month.
Jose Nieves was shot and killed on Jan. 2 by an off-duty transit officer in the 2500 block of North Lowell. Nieves’ sister, Angelica, has said he was moving furniture with his girlfriend at the time.READ MORE: Navy Veteran Had Stroke In Costa Rica, And Now He's Stranded As Family Tries To Pay Five-Figure Medical Bills
The officer, Lowell Houser, was arrested charged with first-degree murder on Wednesday, the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office said in a news release.
He was expected to appear in bond court Thursday.
Police have said Houser was off-duty while visiting the Hermosa neighborhood and got into a verbal argument with Nieves on Jan. 2 in the 2500 block of North Lowell. The confrontation escalated and Houser shot Nieves.
Police have said Nieves did not have a weapon. Houser was stripped of his police powers a day after the shooting, amid ongoing investigations by the Internal Affairs Division and the Independent Police Review Authority.
Hours after the shooting, Police Supt. Eddie Johnson said he had “a lot more questions than answers” about the incident. He acknowledged the officer and Nieves were involved in a confrontation a few weeks before the shooting.
Attorney for the Nieves family issued this statement to the media 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.”
Nieves’ family has filed a federal lawsuit against the city and Houser. The lawsuit does not offer details of the fatal shooting, but alleges “Houser illegally detained and threatened to arrest and physically harm” Nieves on the morning of the shooting.READ MORE: Chicago Weather: Arctic Blast Coming Late Tuesday Night
“Without cause or provocation, Defendant Officer Lowell Houser shot Jose Angel Felipe Nieves to death,” the lawsuit alleges.
The lawsuit also alleges the Chicago Police Department was warned Houser “had illegally detained and threatened to arrest and physically harm” Nieves on one or more occasion before the shooting.
“The family is seeking fundamental and transformative change within the Chicago Police Department. Their son, their brother was killed for no reason by a man who was operating with his police powers.”
Retired Chicago Police Officer Richard Wooten says he’s encouraged that charges took only 16 days – compared to the last officer charged with murder: Jason Van Dyke in the killing of Laquan McDonald.
“This shows that department and the states attorney office is now heading in the right direction in making sure they are doing a thorough job in prosecuting and not concealing,” he says.
Angelica Nieves said the same officer who killed her brother had pulled a gun on him in the past.
A Chicago police department spokesperson told CBS 2 that police were called to Jose Nieves’ home on Dec. 11 for an alleged assault he was committing. At the time, Nieves told police that a man who identified himself as a Chicago police officer pointed a gun at him. Internal Affairs was trying to determine if that officer was the same one who fatally shot Nieves. A department spokesperson could not say if Nieves had been charged with a crime after that December police call.
Nieves’ family members also believe the confrontation might have had something to do with one of the officer’s family members, but police said they could not confirm that.MORE NEWS: View Live Radar
According to the Chicago Tribune, Houser has been the focus of 20 disciplinary investigations since the 1990s.