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New Narcotics Squad At Houston Police Department, Speaker Bonnen Won’t Face Criminal Prosecution, And Texas House Holds Redistricting Hearings In Houston

These are some of the stories Houston Public Media is covering.

Thursday, October 24, 2019

Top afternoon stories:

Houston police officers.
Travis Bubenik/Houston Public Media
HPD officers working in Houston. Police Chief Art Acevedo has created a new narcotics squad within the department.

New Narcotics Squad At Houston Police Department

Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo has created a new narcotics squad that will specialize in serving high-risk warrants. Acevedo said the unit is a direct response to the Jan. 28 botched drug raid, during which two civilians died and five officers were injured.

Dennis Tuttle and his wife Rhogena Nicholas were killed in the raid at their home at 7815 Harding Street, in east Houston. Four police officers were shot and another one sustained a serious knee injury.

"When you have four police officers shot, another one seriously injured and then two targets inside the house, Rhogena and mister Tuttle, you have to look at what can we do differently," Acevedo told News 88.7.

Until now, HPD narcotics squads carried out their own search warrants. A lieutenant, three sergeants and 17 officers who have been training together for two months make up the new high-risk squad. They will start operations on November 1 and wear body cameras, according to Acevedo.

House Speaker Dennis Bonnen announces committee chairs at the state capitol. Jan 23, 2019.
Miguel Gutierrez Jr./The Texas Tribune
House Speaker Dennis Bonnen announces committee chairs at the state capitol. Jan 23, 2019.

Speaker Bonnen Won't Face Criminal Prosecution

Brazoria County District Attorney Jeri Yenne announced Thursday that Texas House Speaker Dennis Bonnen will not be criminally prosecuted for the things he said during a secretly recorded June meeting with a hardline conservative activist, The Texas Tribune reported.

"As repugnant as Speaker Bonnen's actions and statements are," Yenne said in a statement, "I do not believe there is sufficient evidence from the June 12, 2019 meeting to warrant a criminal prosecution of Speaker Bonnen for Bribery or Solicitation of a Gift by a Public Servant, therefore no criminal charges will be brought."

Bonnen, an Angleton Republican, announced Tuesday he will not seek reelection to the lower chamber — and, consequentially, to the speakership — after activist Michael Quinn Sullivan secretly recorded a meeting with Bonnen in June.

The speaker could be punished in legislative ways. The House General Investigating Committee recently retained three legal advisers to help members review the final report and advise them "on the most appropriate next steps."

Andrew Schneider/Houston Public Media
Members of the public waiting to testify before the House Redistricting Committee at Texas Southern University.

Texas House Holds Redistricting Hearings In Houston

The Texas House of Representatives has been holding redistricting hearings across the state, including in Houston this week. During the 2021 legislative session, lawmakers must draw new district lines for seats in Congress, the Texas Senate and the Texas House.

This will be the first round of redistricting since the Supreme Court held that courts could not interfere in partisan gerrymandering by state governments. But former Houston City Council Member Carroll Robinson told the committee that laws against racial gerrymandering are still in force.

"In fact, in a lot of instances, and pretty much almost all instances where we are using the term ‘extreme partisan gerrymandering,' partisanship has become a proxy for race, and it was being used to either crack or pack black and brown voters to dilute their voting strength," Robinson said.

The committee is taking testimony in advance of the 2020 Census. The Census data won't be available until roughly halfway through the 2021 legislature.