There were tears of joy and hugs all around as Nieves' family and loved ones celebrated what they called justice. Houser, 57, was found guilty of second-degree murder by Judge William Gamboney.
"I am more than satisfied," said Angelica Nieves, victim's sister. "He murdered my brother."
Houser admitted he shot Nieves after an argument while he was off-duty, on medical leave, in 2017. Houser told police he thought Nieves was reaching into his waistband for a gun, so he fired his weapon in self-defense. Nieves was unarmed.
Prosecutors charged Houser with first-degree murder, but his family said they are satisfied with the guilty verdict for second-degree murder.
"This man had no reason to kill my son," said Angel Nieves, father.
"Today is a day of celebration," said Brunilda Torres, mother.
The family has also filed a civil suit against the officer and the city. Their attorneys said this verdict will be significant in that litigation. And while Houser chose not to testify at the criminal trial, he will likely not have that option in civil court.
"Today's decision was historic," said Andrew Stroth, civil attorney. "I can count on one hand the number of Chicago police officers convicted of murder in the city of Chicago."
Following the verdict, the judge revoked bond and Houser was taken into custody to await sentencing.
"All that matters to me is he's convicted," Angelica said. "He's a murderer."
State's Attorney Kim Foxx said her office was pleased with the judge's ruling.
"The circumstances of this case were unique, but the way we handled it was not," Foxx said. "As always, we relied upon the facts, the evidence and the law and hope that this resolution brings some measure of comfort to the victim's family and helps restore integrity to our criminal justice system."
Houser, a 28-year veteran of the department, was stripped of his police powers the day after the shooting.
I-TEAM: WHO IS LOWELL HOUSER?
The I-Team looked into Houser's background, who he is and what his record is with the police department, when the shooting first occurred in 2017.
Houser was last assigned to the mass transit unit, and had been the subject of numerous police disciplinary investigations over the years but none involving shootings, a background check revealed.
There is no mention in the complaint or arrest warrant that Houser is a police officer, although his address is listed as 3510 S. Michigan Ave., CPD headquarters.
Years prior the shooting, Houser had financial problems. There were multiple liens against him from banks and credit unions, totaling tens of thousands of dollars. He filed for federal bankruptcy in 2004.
Houser had been the subject of multiple complaints filed against him, according to the Citizens Police Data Project; reportedly, more than 20 complaints over the past two decades. Several resulted in suspension, and one is said to have involved an off-duty disturbance in 1994.