CHICAGO -- Chicago police officer Lowell Houser appeared in bond court today charged with first degree murder.
Houser is charged in the shooting that killed 38-year-old Jose Nieves earlier this month on the city's northwest side.
Houser was off duty when prosecutors say he exchanged words with Nieves' girlfriend.
Nieves confronted him.
The argument escalated and Houser pulled out his gun, shooting Nieves several times, including once in the back.
Houser's attorney says the off-duty officer fired in self-defense because Nieves threatened to shoot him and reached for his waistband.
But police say Nieves was not armed.
The two had several altercations before.
In December, authorities say, Nieves told police that Houser brandished a gun and ordered him back in his apartment. After court today, Nieves' family was stunned the judge allowed Houser to be released on his own recognizance on electronic monitoring until trial.
Houser's attorney said in court the veteran officer was planning to retire this year after being diagnosed with prostate cancer. He says Houser is anxious to clear his name.