Non-profit group stands ground on hiring ex-cop formerly accused of murder

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – It looks like the city is going to lose its showdown over Levi Chavez. A non-profit that helps the homeless has tapped the disgraced cop who was accused of killing his wife, to run a city funded shelter, even though the city wants him out.

Heading Home, along with the mayor, announced the opening of the winter shelter on Monday afternoon. It’s a place for homeless people to stay during the colder months.

However, the announcement has Douglas Chaplin, Director of the city’s Family & Community Services Department, worried about one particular person.

“We’ve been concerned with one of the hires for Heading Home to oversee this. There has been a past history with the City of Albuquerque. There was a lot of publicity around this gentleman,” said Chaplin.

That hire he’s questioning is former Albuquerque Police officer, Levi Chavez. He was accused of using his police issued gun to kill his wife, and then staging it to look like a suicide back in 2007.

He was found not guilty. His wife’s family believes he silenced her to cover up an insurance fraud scheme.

“I don’t want anyone experiencing homelessness not to come out to this shelter, out of fear,” said Chaplin.

Chaplin sent letters to the CEO of the group, which works closely with the Mayor’s Office on homeless programs, addressing his concerns. He stated Chavez has been the subject of long periods of media scrutiny, and that a vulnerable population may avoid seeking shelter if they don’t feel safe with the management team.

The city also points out that Chavez was fired for cause and is ineligible to work for the city again, so he shouldn’t be working at a city-owned and funded shelter.

A spokesperson with Heading Home tells KRQE News 13 that Chavez, a UNM law student, is a great employee and works off-site. He would never be at the shelter.

On top of that, they say he had no criminal convictions on his background check, but Chaplin wants to see a different hiring process in the future.

“I want to make sure there’s enough oversight in place to make sure people feel safe when they come out here,” he said.

The city says it will continue to evaluate each contract and project it has coming up with Heading Home.

Heading Home says it’s confident its relationship with the city isn’t damaged because of this.

Back in 2011, the city settled a civil lawsuit with Tera Chavez’s family for $230,000. The family had sued claiming APD’s culture helped create rogue cops, and that the department failed to train and supervise Chavez properly.

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