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FBI Launches Civil Rights Investigation Of Deadly Houston Drug Raid

Thousands of previous criminal cases handled by one Houston officer are also under review.

Mayor Sylvester Turner (center) discusses the investigation of a deadly drug raid conducted in Houston on January 28, 2019.
Florian Martin/Houston Public Media
Mayor Sylvester Turner (third from left) discusses the investigation of a deadly drug raid conducted in Houston on January 28, 2019.

The FBI has opened a civil rights investigation of a recent drug raid conducted in Southeast Houston that resulted in the death of two people and left five police officers wounded.

On January 28, Houston Police Officer Gerald Goines led a no-knock search warrant at 7815 Harding that resulted in a shootout. Dennis Tuttle, 59, and Rhogena Nicholas, 58, were killed. Goines is one of the five officers wounded. The undercover operation was expected to net large amounts of heroin, but officers found only small amounts of marijuana and cocaine.

At a press conference Wednesday, Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo didn't provide details about the FBI investigation but said it will include a focus on Goines and Officer Steven Bryant. Both of them have been relieved of duty.

Acevedo said he met with Perrye Turner, the FBI Special Agent in charge of the Houston Division, on Tuesday night, but didn’t elaborate on their discussion.

The FBI said in a news release its investigation will look into into allegations that the search warrant obtained by Houston police officers was based on false, fabricated information. The news release added investigators “will collect all available facts and evidence in accordance with FBI policies and procedures.”

At the news conference, Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner said the deadly raid has "shaken" the trust between HPD and the public. He reiterated he wants HPD's internal investigation to move along as quickly as possible. HPD has resisted calls to turn the investigation over to an outside agency, such as the Texas Rangers.

But Turner said he has asked the city’s Independent Police Oversight Advisory Board, which is made up of civilians, to conduct its own review of the raid.

Meanwhile, the Harris County District Attorney's Office announced Wednesday it has launched a review of more than 1,400 criminal cases involving Goines. Twenty-seven of those cases were active and have been put on hold.

According to the internal investigation the Houston Police Department is conducting about the raid, Goines may have lied about a confidential informant when he prepared an affidavit to request permission from a judge to conduct the no-knock search warrant.

The raid has sparked criticism of HPD by community members and activists. In response, Acevedo announced on Monday night the department will stop doing no-knock search warrants in most cases, saying his office will have to directly authorize any exemptions to the new policy.

During the press conference, Acevedo officially announced the new policy, saying it is now effective. In Acevedo’s absence, only Executive Assistant Chiefs Matt Slinkard and Troy Finner will be able to authorize forced entry raids.

You can read HPD’s circular on the new policy here:

Houston Police Department's circular on new policy for no-knock search warrants, which became effective on February 20, 2019 (Image credit: Houston Police Department)
Houston Police Department

Acevedo also announced that HPD will move "very quickly" to implement the use of body cameras by SWAT teams and during the execution of warrants.

Mayoral candidate Bill King released a statement welcoming the FBI investigation. King said he’s sure it will be “thorough, objective and complete,” and added “it should also help restore faith in our police department.”