Criminologist discusses body camera video following firing of 4 HPD officers

As Nicolas Chavez’s family prepares his memorial site for a community vigil, the world gets a closer look at how the 27-year-old was shot and killed by Houston police officers in April.

On Thursday, the Houston Police Department released body camera footage of Chavez encounter with police. Dr. Geoffrey Alpert, criminology professor with the University of South Carolina, watched it.

“I think it's important to find out for the officers why each one pulled the trigger every time, the trigger was pulled,” said Alpert. “Every shot needs to be explained.”

Alpert has researched police use of force and training for more than 30 years.
He says from what he could see officers did a reasonable job of trying to calm Chavez down at first.


“This was not one of those situations [where] everything had to be done in a heartbeat, in a split second. Officers had time to plan and kind of control the situation which they were doing a reasonable job up until the end,” Alpert observed.

The Houston Police Officers Union defended the four officers who were fired for shooting Chavez. The unions argued the officers were threatened when Chavez picked up an officer's dropped Taser. Alpert says from what he could see in the video, that the potential threat of officers being shot by the Taser did not justify deadly force.

“It appeared that officers were out of range of the Taser and if they weren't and if they concerned that the taser were live, all they had to do was take a few steps back,” Alpert added.

He adds it appeared Chavez was hardly able to move once he was close to the Taser.

“Mr. Chavez had already been shot,” he told FOX 26. “He wasn't very mobile. It looked on the video like he was barely moving. It wasn't like he was going to charge them, and I believe he had thrown the steel implement with which he was cutting himself.


Alpert also says from the video, it's hard to tell which of the 28 officers on the scene was in charge.

“There were a lot of officers. I don't know who was ranking or who was senior but someone should have been in charge and kind of figuring out a plan.”

RELATED: Family of Nicolas Chavez say firing of police officers is a step in the right direction

The Chavez family is holding a vigil on Saturday at 6 p.m. at 800 Gazin Street in Northeast Houston.