Chicago cop faces murder charges in off-duty shooting

Chicago police officer Lowell Houser is charged with murder in a shooting that happened while he was off duty.

Story highlights

  • Fatal shooting followed argument, police say
  • Cop and victim knew each other

Chicago (CNN)A Chicago judge Thursday ordered a $150,000 bond and house arrest for a police officer charged with first-degree murder in the killing of a man while the officer was off duty.

Officer Lowell Houser, 57, allegedly got into an argument with a man who was moving into a home on Chicago's northwest side on January 2. The argument escalated, and Houser allegedly fired multiple shots at the man, Jose Nieves, killing him.
Nieves, 38, was unarmed at the time of the shooting, police said.
The judge also ordered Houser to turn over his passport and weapons, and to have no contact with the victim's family or witnesses.
Houser was arrested Wednesday, according to the Cook County State's Attorney's Office, which filed the charges against him.
Police said Nieves and Houser knew each other and had an altercation weeks before the deadly shooting. Houser was stripped of his police powers shortly after the shooting, police said.

Victim's family files lawsuit

"The Nieves' family is devastated by the loss of Jose," said attorney Andrew Stroth, who is representing the victim's family. "The state's attorney's action... will not bring back Jose but it's an important and swift step in the criminal justice process."
The Nieves family has filed a federal lawsuit against the city and Houser. The suit alleges that the officer "illegally detained and threatened to arrest and physically harm" Nieves before firing the deadly shots. A representative of the city's law department said it would not comment on pending litigation.
"The Chicago Police Department turned the case over to the state's attorney and the Independent Police Review Authority once the possibility of criminal violations were suspected," said Chicago Police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi in a statement released Wednesday. "CPD will fully cooperate with the state's attorney throughout the judicial process."

Feds find Chicago PD used excessive force

Houser is the second Chicago police officer currently facing murder charges. Officer Jason Van Dyke has been charged in the October 2014 fatal shooting of Chicago teen Laquan McDonald. Van Dyke has pleaded not guilty.
The McDonald case prompted a US Department of Justice investigation into the Chicago Police Department in late 2015. The charges against Houser come less than a week after the Justice Department issued a report on its investigation. The agency announced Friday it uncovered a pattern of unconstitutionally excessive and deadly force, and the city has agreed to negotiate a reform plan to be overseen by a federal judge.
US Attorney General Loretta Lynch said the deficiencies were due, in part, to poor training of officers, failure to collect data on misconduct complaints and the lack of review of use of force incidents.