Judge Orders Release of Chicago Cop Charged with Murder in Off-Duty Killing

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Prosecutors said Thursday that a Chicago cop charged with first-degree murder for an off-duty shooting had allegedly brandished a gun and threatened the victim during an incident weeks before the deadly altercation.Prosecutors said Thursday that a Chicago cop charged with first-degree murder for an off-duty shooting had allegedly brandished a gun and threatened the victim during an incident weeks before the deadly altercation.

The new details emerged as Cook County Judge Donald Panarese, Jr. ordered officer Lowell Houser, 57, to be released on his own recognizance while being placed on electronic monitoring.

Houser, a 28-year veteran of the Chicago Police Department, was taken into custody a day earlier for the off-duty fatal shooting of an unarmed 38-year-old man shot earlier this month during an argument outside a Northwest Side apartment.

Houser, who appeared for his bail hearing Thursday, allegedly called 911 after the fatal shooting of Jose Nieves and told a dispatcher: “Yeah, this is Officer Houser. I have an emergency. A gentleman tried to attack me. I had to shoot him,” according to prosecutors.

Prosecutors said that Houser and Nieves, who lived in the same apartment building as a female companion of the officer, had a history of bad blood.

Nieves had filed a complaint with Chicago Police officers weeks before the deadly incident, alleging that on Dec. 11, Houser had brandished a handgun and ordered him to get back into his apartment, according to assistant state’s attorney Lynn McCarthy.

Defense attorney William Fahy said Houser acted in the fatal shooting only after Nieves threatened to shoot him and reached toward his waistband. The only gun found at the scene was Houser’s service weapon.

“This is not first-degree murder,” Fahy said. “This is self-defense.”

The murder charge against Houser was announced just days after the U.S. Department of Justice released the findings of a 13-month long investigation of Chicago’s police force, in which they found that the city’s cops are poorly trained, often use excessive force, and rarely face discipline for misconduct.

The investigation of the department was launched following widespread anger in the city’s African-American community over the investigation of the police shooting death of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald. The officer who fired 16 shots at McDonald, who was holding a small knife, was charged with first degree murder on the same day that the city, under court order, released police video footage of the incident.

The Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office, the city’s Independent Police Review Authority and the FBI investigated the fatal shooting of Nieves before charges were announced on Wednesday by the prosecutor’s office.

On Jan. 2, the day of the fatal shooting, Nieves and a friend were moving boxes into, Nieves’ apartment, when Houser left the building and got into his car. Houser lowered the window of his vehicle and allegedly asked Nieves’ friend why he was helping him.

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Source: USA Today | Aamer Madhani