The devastated family of a man killed by an off-duty Chicago police officer in 2017 will find out Friday whether that officer will be convicted of murder in the case.
In January of that year, 38-year-old Jose Nieves was moving boxes outside of his apartment on Lowell Avenue on Chicago’s Northwest Side when he got into an argument with off-duty Chicago police officer Lowell Houser.
Houser, who was on medical leave for cancer treatment, frequently went to the apartment building to visit a friend, but on that day he engaged in an argument with Nieves. During the argument, Houser pulled out his service revolver and shot Nieves twice, killing him.
Houser says that he acted in self-defense, but he was charged with murder in the case.
No weapon was found near Nieves after the shooting, and now his family is speaking out, saying they hope justice is serviced in the case.
“Why did he have to kill him?” Nieves’ sister Angelica asks. “Why shoot a person three times? You were in a moving vehicle. Why did you stay there?”
The family says that the incident was not isolated, as there had been conflict in the relationship between the two men in the past. According to the Chicago Tribune, Cook County prosecutors said that approximately one month before the fatal shooting, Houser had brandished a gun during an argument with Nieves.
The Nieves family’s lawyer, civil rights attorney Andrew Stroth, claims that Houser used the power of his badge to shoot Nieves that night.
“He has a history of using excessive force in the community, and the city and CPD were aware of his history,” Stroth said. “They allowed him to use his badge and his service revolver to kill Jose Nieves.”
Houser’s attorney disputes that version of events, saying that Nieves threatened to shoot his client and reached toward his waistband in the moments before Houser shot him in what his attorney calls an act of self-defense.
The three-day bench trial in the case took place in October, and on Friday Houser will learn his fate at the Cook County Criminal Courthouse. He is facing first degree murder charges in the case, but the judge could opt to convict him of second degree murder if he finds that Houser believed his life was in danger, but that the belief was unreasonable.
In the meantime, Nieves’ family is hoping for a guilty verdict in a case that’s taken nearly three years to be resolved.
“We’ve been waiting for this day to come,” Angelica said. “We want justice.”
“I pray that my son will receive justice,” Nieves’ mother said. “I try to think positive and stay positive. I pray to the lord that it will be a good outcome.”