An unarmed Latino man was shot dead Monday by an off-duty Chicago police officer after a verbal confrontation, police said just days after it was revealed that 2016 saw the highest number of murders in the city in more than two decades.
"The person who was shot did not have a weapon. That much we know. The officer's weapon is the only one we found," said police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi. The victim was identified as Jose Nieves, 38. He was pronounced dead at a nearby hospital shortly after the shooting.
Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson said the victim and the officer knew each other from before and had a previous confrontation a few weeks ago.
The 57-year-old officer has not been fired or suspended but moved to desk duty as the investigation takes place. Nieves’ family said the officer had previously pulled a gun on the victim when they lived in the same building previously.
"He would complain about the guy pulling out his gun at him, him coming home from work. More than once, he's called 911. They've gone to the apartment. They've gone there. They don't do nothing about it. He's an officer," Angelica Nieves, the victim's sister said, according to local news.
"You got him in the stomach, on the lower body, and the back," she said. "So he was turned around when he got him in the back. That's the bullet that killed him."
For the victim’s father, Angel Nieves, the officer’s actions were nothing but “murder."
"They killed my son. They killed my son," he told ABC 7 Chicago.
The incident took place just a day after statistics released by the Chicago Police Department revealed that in 2016, 762 homicides took place in the city, an average of two murders a day, as well as 3,550 shooting incidents in the course of the year.
The number of murders is the highest in two decades and a more than 55 percent increase from 2015, when 485 people were killed. The year 2016 also saw 1,100 more shooting incidents in the city compared to 2015.
Experts and police are blaming the surge in shootings and killings to increased gang violence as well as a broader lack of education and employment, which leaves a sense of hopelessness that drives members of communities suffering such problems to turn to gangs and crime.