Harris County prosecutors have charged former Houston police officer Gerald Goines with two felony murder charges in connection with a deadly January 28 botched drug raid that killed two civilians and injured several officers.
The raid came under scrutiny after police alleged that Goines, who was shot during the raid, lied in order to obtain a search warrant. A married couple, 58-year-old Rhogena Nicholas and 59-year-old Dennis Tuttle, were killed in the raid. The medical examiner ruled their deaths a homicide.
Family and friends of Tuttle and Nicholas have continuously dismissed allegations the couple sold drugs. Police found small amounts of marijuana and cocaine in the home but none of the heroin they expected to find.
Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg announced the charges against Goines on Friday. Additionally, former officer Steven Bryant is charged with tampering with a government record.
Ogg said that in order to obtain the search warrant, Goines is accused of falsely stating there had been a two-week investigation about the house in question, located at 7815 Harding Street. The DA said Goines also falsely stated that a confidential informant had bought heroin at the house the day before the warrant and that the seller was armed.
Ogg also noted that Bryant wrote a supplement to the original offense report claiming he had previously assisted Goines in the investigation of the house. However, according to the DA, Bryant’s claim was false and he further fabricated that two days after the raid he recovered a plastic bag that contained a white napkin and two small packets of a brown powdery substance, which he believed contained heroin.
During an interview subsequent to the HPD investigation, Goines admitted there was no confidential informant who bought drugs at the house. Additionally, he admitted Bryant never made an identification of the substance alleged to have been purchased at the house.
Violation of Texas Penal Code
Prosecutors allege Goines violated the Texas Penal Code by tampering with a government record because he provided false information to a judge to obtain the warrant.
They said the execution of the warrant resulted in the deaths of Tuttle and Nicholas, leading to the first-degree felony murder charges. However, the DA said a grand jury could consider capital murder charges.
The charge against Bryant, tampering with a government document because of his false claims, is the only charge because his actions occurred after the raid.
“I’ve not seen a case like this in my 30 plus years of practicing law,” Ogg stated, while saying the actions by the former police officers mean “the community has been violated.”
Goines and Bryant turned themselves in on Friday afternoon. The DA’s office is recommending a $250,000 bond on each count against Goines and a $100,000 bond on the count against Bryant. Prosecutors are in the process of going through 14,000 cases involving Goines and Bryant. Ogg anticipates their investigation “will continue through the remainder of this year.”
A Harris County grand jury will soon begin to review the evidence to determine if more charges are warranted against Goines or Bryant. The grand jury will also decide whether there are charges authorized against any other officers and review “extraneous claims” against Goines that the DA’s office has received.
Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner reacted to the DA’s announcement with a statement saying the legal process will run its course and the city “will fully cooperate in seeing that justice is done.”
Police Chief Art Acevedo said in a news conference the charges were expected. He added he anticipates there could be additional charges but didn’t elaborate.
Houston Police handed over to the DA’s office its internal investigation of the raid in May and Acevedo noted it has contributed to the findings made by prosecutors.
Acevedo said the department continues assessing its narcotics investigations and there is no indication at all that the actions related to the botched raid are a “systemic problem” within HPD. The police chief said his department will keep cooperating with the DA’s office, as well as with the US. Attorney’s Office and the FBI, on the investigation of the raid.
Attorneys representing Rhogena Nicholas’ family said in a statement that the charges against Goines and Bryant “are important developments, but they should be only the beginning of the pursuit of justice in the police killings of Rhogena Nicholas and Dennis Tuttle.”
The statement also said an independent investigation requested by Nicholas’ family is focused on the narcotics squad that executed the raid, as well as on “the conduct, pattern and practices of HPD before, during, and after” the raid, which the attorneys categorize as “out-of-control” and an “unjustified execution of Rhogena in her own home.”
Click here to read a story on the raid’s timeline.
You can watch DA Ogg’s news conference here:
Harding St Raid Press Conference https://t.co/65sxUIi5WF
— Harris County DA (@HarrisCountyDAO) August 23, 2019