By Timothy Mclaughlin
CHICAGO (Reuters) - Prosecutors charged a Chicago police officer on Wednesday with first-degree murder after he was accused of fatally shooting an unarmed man during an altercation while off-duty, authorities said.
Police said officer Lowell Houser, 57, and the victim, 38-year-old Jose Nieves, knew each other before their dispute, which took place on the city's Northwest side early on Jan. 2.
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The charges came less than a week after federal officials issued a scathing report accusing the Chicago Police Department of widespread civil rights violations.
According to a police statement at the time, Houser shot Nieves multiple times. The officer, who was assigned to the Mass Transit Unit, was stripped of his police powers by Superintendent Eddie Johnson the following day.
In a statement on Wednesday, the police department said it would cooperate with the Cook County State's Attorney's Office, which brought the charges against Houser.
Chicago, the nation's third largest city, is reeling from a year in which murders sharply increased.
On Friday, the U.S. Department of Justice released the findings from a 13-month investigation that found Chicago police routinely used excessive force and were racially biased.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel has faced strong criticism over the city's handling of police shootings. Ahead of the publication of the Justice Department's report, he sought to implement reforms including equipping officers with body-cameras and pledging to hire hundreds of new officers.
(Reporting by Timothy Mclaughlin; Editing by Daniel Wallis)