Criminal Justice

Family Of Harding Street Raid Victims File Lawsuits Against The City

Lawyers say the accused officers “operated as a criminal organization and tormented Houston residents for years.”

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The families of two Houstonians who were killed in the botched 2019 Harding Street raid filed a pair of lawsuits against the city Wednesday night.

Lawyers allege that the 12 officers involved in the raid had violated the civil rights of Dennis Tuttle and Rhogena Nicholas, who were both killed by Houston police officers.

Attorney Mike Doyle, who represents the Nicholas family, said HPD still has questions to answer.

"Every step of the way, all we ever heard from the city was, ‘No, we're not giving this information. We're going to keep concealing this information,'" he said during a news conference Thursday.

Harris County prosecutors have already charged 12 officers in connection with the Jan. 28, 2019 raid, which killed two civilians and injured several officers. Former HPD officer Gerald Goines was charged with murder for his alleged role in the shooting death at 7815 Harding St.

HPD has argued that Tuttle shot four police officers with a revolver before being killed.

But Doyle on Thursday disputed that claim, saying the families had paid an independent forensics expert whose analysis called that story into question based on bullet trajectories and positions of bodies, he said.

TIMELINE | A Botched Houston Police Raid And Its Consequences

Doyle on Thursday said he has seen no evidence that Tuttle actually shot at the officers.

“The ballistic evidence, that’s at the heart of getting to the bottom of this, remains concealed,” he said. “There’s really nothing we’ve seen… that indicates that Dennis Tuttle actually ever fired or even had a weapon on him.”

Doyle called on Police Chief Art Acevedo and Mayor Sylvester Turner to release the concealed ballistic evidence.

The lawsuits, filed in the U.S. District Court in the Southern District of Texas, allege the HPD under Chief Art Acevedo failed to hold Narcotics Squad 15 accountable for their wrongful actions.

The families have asked for an unspecified amount in damages.

Former HPD officer Felipe Gallegos with attorney Rusty Hardin on Jan. 26, 2021. Gallegos is charged with murder after the botched 2019 Harding Street raid.

The lawsuits come just before the two year anniversary of the raid, and after six officers were indicted on Monday for their alleged participation.

In total, 12 officers have now been indicted, facing a variety of felony charges such as engaging in organized criminal activity and tampering with a governmental record.

Among those six officers is Felipe Gallegos, who is charged with Tuttle’s murder.

Gallegos joins Goines as the only other officers currently facing murder charges. The raid was led by Goines, who allegedly lied in order to obtain the warrant in an alleged long running scheme to steal overtime from the city, according to the Harris County DA’s office. Harris County DA Kim Ogg said all 12 officers were working together in the alleged overtime scheme.

But Gallegos’ attorney, Rusty Hardin, said on Tuesday that Gallegos wasn’t aware of the nature of the warrant and was simply doing his job.

“This man, and the others of that unit, had no idea,” he said. “They thought they were executing a normal search warrant."

Douglas Griffith, president of the Houston Police Officers' Union, also spoke out against the indictments on Tuesday, saying the alleged overtime scheme was based on irregularities found in timesheets — something he said happens quite often.

“There are plenty of things that the DA’s office obviously gets wrong,” he said. “(Kim Ogg) has overreached, overstepped, and our officers are going to be proven innocent at the end of the day. We look forward to our day in court.”

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