Fallout From A Botched Houston Drug Raid Continues

Three agencies – Houston police, the DA’s office and the FBI – are investigating the January 28 raid during which two people died, and five police officers were injured.

By Florian MartinFebruary 27, 2019 11:49 am, , ,

From Houston Public Media:

On January 28, police in Houston executed a no-knock police raid that turned deadly. By the end of the shootout, the two residents of the home – and their dog – were dead, and five officers were injured. The case has made national headlines and raised concerns about about the conduct of one of the narcotics officers involved.

But soon, the story shifted from one about heroic officers fighting for their lives to one about police misconduct. Now the FBI is investigating after it came out that an officer may have lied on an affidavit to get a search warrant, and the Houston Police Department has announced sweeping changes.

To understand how we got here, let’s go back to January 29, a day after the raid.

Right away, there were questions. Neighbors and the killed couple’s family members painted a picture of them that didn’t fit those of dangerous drug dealers.

Here’s what one neighbor told ABC13.

“When someone knocks down your door, of course, you’re going to react.”

Houston Police Officers Union President Joe Gamaldi on the other hand saw it as a violent attack on police, as he told reporters at a news conference.

“We are sick and tired of having dirtbags trying to take our lives when all we’re trying to do is protect this community and protect our families,” Gamaldi said.

He also took the opportunity to attack those who criticize police. Police Chief Art Acevedo later called those comments “over the top.”

At another press conference, the chief gave a step-by-step account of what happened during the raid.

“The first officer through the door, armed with a shotgun, was immediately charged by a large pitbull,” Acevedo said.

The officer shot the dog dead. That’s when Dennis Tuttle, the homeowner, started shooting at that officer.

“That officer was struck in the shoulder,” Acevedo said. “He went down, fell on the sofa in the living room.”

Then Tuttle’s wife, Rhogena Nicholas, tried to grab the officer’s shotgun and was consequently shot by other officers.

Faced with questions, the chief released the search warrant on Twitter. It shows the narcotics officers alleged there was heroin in the house. However, all they ended up finding was small amounts of cocaine and marijuana, raising more questions.

Then it was revealed that HPD internal affairs investigators couldn’t find the confidential informant who was mentioned in the warrant affidavit.

Two officers, Gerald Goines and Steve Bryant, have been relieved of duty and Goines – who was the lead officer in the raid, is under criminal investigation.

At a town hall meeting with the police chief and the Harris County District Attorney, activists and community members wanted answers.

“I don’t know if someone is going to knock down my door and shoot my dogs and kill me and my husband,” one attendee said.

Following that, Chief Acevedo announced he would end no-knock search warrants in most cases. Going forward, any time officers want to request a warrant from a judge that lets them enter a home without first announcing their presence, the chief has to sign off on it first.

He also says SWAT teams and officers serving search warrants will start wearing body cameras.

And while Acevedo initially denied calls for an outside investigation, last week he announced the FBI has opened a civil rights investigation into the case.

“The FBI will do a collaborative investigation. It’s independent, however, we’re actually having to work with them because we will provide them information and some of our evidence,” Acevedo said.

This means three agencies are investigating: HPD, the FBI and the Houston DA. A citizens review board will have access to the police investigation and be able to make recommendations.

The DA’s Office also announced it will review 1,400 cases, 27 of them active, that Goines worked on during his 34 years at HPD. Several cases have already been dismissed. Acevedo says he expects there to be serious consequences for the officers involved.

“I’m very, very confident that we’ll going to have criminal charges on one or more police officers,” Acevedo said.

Both the HPD chief and the DA say they don’t plan to comment further on the investigation until it’s concluded.