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Chicago Cop Charged With First-Degree Murder In Off-Duty Killing Of Unarmed Man

By Stephen Gossett in News on Jan 18, 2017 10:41PM

Screenshot / ABC7

A Chicago police officer has been charged with first-degree murder in the fatal off-duty shooting of a 38-year-old man in Hermosa earlier this month, according to the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office.

Jose Nieves, who was unarmed, was shot and killed on Jan. 2, at around 9:30 a.m. after an off-duty Chicago cop got into “an altercation with a male known to him,” police said in a statement following the shooting. The officer, identified on Wednesday as Lowell Houser, was stripped of police powers in the days following the shooting. CPD’s Internal Affairs and the Independent Police Review Authority then both launched investigations.

Lowell, a 28-year police veteran, was arrested and charged on Wednesday.

Attorneys for the Nieves family said in a statement 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.” The Nieves family is also suing Houser and the City of Chicago.

Nieves’ sister told media that the officer lived downstairs from the victim and said he was a problem neighbor. "911 calls had been made before about that gentlemen pulling out his gun at my brother," she told WGN.

Family members said Nieves was moving furniture with his girlfriend when the altercation happened.

"I have a lot more questions than I do answers at this time," said CPD Superintendent Eddie Johnson when the investigations were launched.

Houser has been investigated on disciplinary grounds at least 20 times since the 1990s, the Tribune reports. He was suspended several times, once for an incident characterized as an off-duty domestic disturbance. Nieves had been arrested multiple times on a variety of charges, but he was only convicted once, for marijuana possession and possession of a fake gun, according to court documents obtained by the Sun-Times.

The murder charge comes in the wake of the Department of Justice’s damning findings in a 13-month investigation of the Chicago Police Department and just days after another Chicago police officer was charged with criminal sexual assault of a minor.