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HPD Completes Investigation Of Botched Drug Raid, As Private Forensics Team Raises New Questions

The Houston Police Department has turned over a report of its investigation into the deadly drug raid on Harding Street to the district attorney.

The Pecan Park house where four police officers were shot on January 28, 2019 while serving a search warrant.
The Pecan Park house where four police officers were shot on January 28, 2019 while serving a search warrant.

The Houston Police Department turned over a report of its investigation into the fateful Harding Street raid to the Harris County District Attorney’s Office Wednesday.

It comes on the heels of an independent crime scene investigation by a team hired by the family of the couple killed in the January police raid, Steve Tuttle and Rhogena Nicholas.

The team, headed by forensic consultant Mike Maloney, spent several days scrutinizing the scene in the Pecan Park neighborhood.

“What was unfortunately not unexpected from the initial evaluation from the scene, but really disturbing was how much evidence was simply left there uncollected,” said Mike Doyle, the lawyer representing Nicholas’ family. “Including a number of bullets, including pieces of shotgun shells, including even two teeth that appeared to be from Mr. Tuttle.”

He also said the private team found inconsistencies with the police narrative.

“Probably the most important is there’s at least no evidence at all – and they’ve been there several days now – that there was any shooting going on from inside the house to outside the house,” Doyle said.

Another thing was that blood from the dog that police had said attacked officers as they were barging into the home, and which they said started the shooting, was found 15 feet away from the door.

HPD’s report on the shooting has not been publicly released. A police spokesman declined comment, pending the continuing internal affairs investigation.

The president and CEO of the Houston Forensic Science Center, Peter Stout, told News 88.7 a dozen investigators collected more than 220 items and took more than 2,200 photos and videos.

He said it was a chaotic scene and acknowledges things could have been missed.

“At the time of a scene and even for some time after processing the scene, things that may not be important to the investigation at the time may become important as other information comes in,” Stout said. “Everyone has to look at what are the best things to try and collect at that time.”

About the teeth left behind, Stout said this was not a case where identity of someone had to be established, so they wouldn’t be considered important evidence.

He also pointed out the private team looked at the scene nearly four months later.

“The teeth may not have been all that visible because they may have been covered in blood and reflective and now that it’s dry it became much more evident,” Stout said.

He said he’s willing to work with the private forensic team to analyze any additional evidence from the scene.

Doyle said they had invited the Texas Rangers and the Harris County Institute of Forensic Sciences to attend the evidence documentation, but both declined.

Besides the deaths of Nicholas and Tuttle, the raid at 7815 Harding Street left five police officers injured, four of them shot. HPD has maintained there was no friendly fire.

Two officers have retired amid allegations that they lied to get a judge to sign a no-knock search warrant.

Click here to view a timeline of events surrounding the botched police raid.

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Florian Martin

Florian Martin

Business Reporter

Florian Martin is currently the News 88.7 business reporter. Florian’s stories can frequently be heard on other public radio stations throughout Texas and on NPR nationwide. Some of them have earned him awards from Texas AP Broadcasters, the Houston Press Club, National Association of Real Estate Editors, and Public Radio...

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