APHONY WARRANT, A DEADLY DRUG RAID, AND A BARREL OF BAD APPLES IN HOUSTON.

AuthorSullum, Jacob
PositionDRUGS

ON JANUARY 28, 2019, plainclothes narcotics officers broke into a house on Harding Street in Houston and killed all three occupants: Dennis Tuttle, a retired 59-year-old machinist; his 58-year-old wife, Rhogena Nicholas; and their dog. The couple's families marked the two-year anniversary of that deadly home invasion by filing federal civil rights lawsuits against the city, its police chief, and 13 officers implicated in the operation.

The raid, which was triggered by a phony tip, was based on a no-knock search warrant that Officer Gerald Goines obtained by falsely portraying Tuttle and Nicholas as dangerous drug dealers. The centerpiece of Goines' search warrant affidavit was a fictional heroin purchase by a nonexistent confidential informant. Another narcotics officer, Steven Bryant, backed up Goines' story. Goines and Bryant eventually were charged with several state and federal crimes, including two counts of felony murder against Goines.

Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo, who hailed the cops who killed Tuttle and Nicholas as "heroes" and 10 months after the raid was still dismissing "the chances of this being systemic," would like the story to end there: with two bad apples whose lies led to the regrettable but necessary use of deadly force against two people who, in turned out, were not actually heroin dealers. But the lawsuits argue that the blame extends to 11 other cops who helped instigate the raid, executed it, or allowed it to happen; Acevedo, who has never apologized for posthumously defaming Tuttle and Nicholas or given a full explanation of why they died; and the city, which built a moldy barrel where apples were bound to go bad and spread their rot.

The lawsuit filed by Nicholas' mother and brother says Narcotics Squad 15, which executed the raid, "operated as a criminal organization" that "tormented Houston residents for years." The officers' crimes included "search warrants obtained by perjury," "false statements submitted to cover up the fraudulent warrants," "improper payments to informants," "illegal and unconstitutional invasions of homes," "illegal arrests," and "excessive force."

GOINES, WHOM ACEVEDO initially described as "a big teddy bear" who was "tough as nails" and had "tremendous courage," worked in narcotics for 25 years. According to news reports and court documents, he routinely lied to obtain no-knock search warrants, framed innocent people, handled evidence recklessly, carried on a sexual relationship with...

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