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Acevedo Provides Details On Operation That Led To Shootout, Criticizes Tone Of Police Union President

Joe Gamaldi, president of the HPOU, said Monday they would be keeping track of people who promote violence against the police.

On January 29, Police Chief Art Acevedo held a press conference at Memorial Hermann Hospital to provide updates on the five police officers who were injured while serving a search warrant.

Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo is providing more details about the narcotics operation that ended up in a shootout Monday and that wounded five officers, four of them by gunfire. The HPD chief also criticized comments made by Joe Gamaldi, president of the Houston Police Officers Union (HPOU), on the day of the incident.

Acevedo explained that on January 8 patrol officers from HPD’s East Division received an anonymous call regarding a suspicious person and were dispatched for service at 7815 Harding, the address of the house where a search warrant was executed on January 28.

The caller said her daughter was in the house doing drugs and there was heroin and guns in the residence. Subsequently, HPD started an investigation on January 11. As reflected on the affidavit requesting a search warrant, a confidential informant purchased heroin at the house on January 27.

Acevedo underlined that the substance purchased by the informant was tested and was confirmed to be heroin. “I know that one of the outstanding questions by the community and by the media is (whether) has that substance been tested?” the HPD chief said during a media briefing held Thursday. “The answer is yes, and it came back as heroin, has been confirmed to be heroin by the Houston Forensic Science Center,” he specified.

Acevedo also detailed that “on the night of the incident and the search warrant, investigators did find small amounts of what we now have confirmed, through tests, of marijuana and also of cocaine in the residence.”

Although the affidavit requesting the search warrant said the informant had seen what appeared to be a 9 millimeter semiautomatic hand gun at the house in question, none of the firearms recovered on the day of the operation match that description. Acevedo hinted it’s possible the informant was wrong about the type of firearm and said that is part of the investigation about the operation.

Data

After the operation, the HPD chief has reviewed the number of search warrants executed by members of the Narcotics Division during a period of five years, from January 1, 2014, to December 31, 2018. He also reviewed how many officer involved shootings occurred during those operations.

There were 1,736 search warrants executed by the Narcotics Division in that timeframe and only one officer involved shootings. Acevedo noted that represents 0.6 percent and said: “I don’t think that that’s indicative of a police department that is not doing some great work.”

The HPD chief said that he has spoken with the brother of Dennis Tuttle, one of the two suspects who died in the shootout, to express his condolences to the family.

Gamaldi’s comments

As for the criticism of the comments made by Gamaldi, in which he criticized people that promote violence against the police, Acevedo said: “It took us all by surprise, OK? It was over the top.”

On Monday night during a press conference held at Memorial Hermann Hospital, where the wounded officers were being treated, Gamaldi said: “We are sick and tired of having targets on our back. We are sick and tired of having dirtbags trying to take our lives when all we are trying to do is protect this community and protect our families.”

“Enough is enough and if you are the ones out there spreading the rhetoric that police officers are the enemy,” Gamaldi added, “well just know we’ve got your number now, we’re gonna be keeping track all you all and we’re gonna make sure we hold you accountable every time you stir the pot on our police officers.”

Acevedo said that “in one sense” he understood Gamaldi’s concern but “that was not the place, this was not the incident, this had nothing to do with any of the stuff that he was talking about.”

The HPD chief noted the department has received “a lot of phone calls” from the community to denounce Gamaldi’s comments and said he plans to hold meetings with local activists next week.

Update on wounded officers

Acevedo also provided an update on the wounded officers. He said the officer who was the case agent, who is 54 years old and has already been shot three times in the line of duty, has been upgraded to “fair condition.”

Another officer with a knee injury also remains hospitalized, but is in “good condition” and should be discharged soon. There is a third officer hospitalized, but Acevedo didn’t provide an update about him following his family’s wishes.

The investigation about the operation continues. It’s being conducted by HPD’s Special Investigations Unit and Internal Affairs, with assistance from the Civil Rights Division of the Harris County District Attorney’s office.

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Alvaro ‘Al’ Ortiz

Digital News Producer

Alvaro ‘Al’ Ortiz is originally from Madrid (Spain). He worked for several years in his home country and gained experience in all platforms of journalism, from wire services to print, as well as broadcast and digital reporting. In 2001, Al came to the United States to pursue a Master’s degree...

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