Houston Cop Retires Amid Criminal Probe into Botched Raid that Left 2 Dead
Houston narcotics officer Gerald Goines, who is at the center of internal affairs investigations as well as an FBI civil rights probe, retired on Friday.
Goines' retirement comes just one day after Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo said he expects more than one officer involved in the botched raid that left an innocent couple dead to be charged criminally.
The anticipated criminal charges, which have not yet been confirmed, comes almost two months after the Houston police union threatened to retaliate against police accountability activists in January, which we reported about last month.
"Enough is enough," Joseph Gamaldi, president of the Houston Police Association, said just after Dennis Tuttle and Rhogena Nicholas lost their lives during the raid, which even the chief of police has admitted was based on deceptive lies and fabrications submitted to a judge in a sworn affidavit.
"If you're the ones out there spreading the rhetoric that police officers are the enemy, well just know we've all got your number now. We’re going to be keeping track on all of y'all, and we're going to make sure to hold you accountable every time you stir the pot on our police officers," Joseph Gamaldi said, threatening to retaliate against citizens for exercising their First Amendment rights.
And 800 cases worked by Steven Bryant, a narcotics officer mentioned in the affidavit and who participated in the raid, are under review, according to Reason.com.
The raid turned up no drugs, but left two innocent people dead inside of their own home.
Initially, Houston police claimed they were simply responding to "numerous complaints from neighbors," regarding drug activity at 7815 Harding St. before they raided the house with nine undercover narcotics officers and six uniformed officers at 5 p.m. on January 28.
"The neighborhood thanked our officers," Acevedo claimed after the raid.
"It was a drug house. They described it as a problem location."
However, neighbors contradicted Acevedo's comments and pointed out the couple did not harbor negative views of police and said they would have never returned fire at police, who fired the initial shot at the couple's dog, had they known they were police.
Previously, Goines managed to obtain more than 100 no-knock warrants over the course of seven years after convincing judges he had a confidential informant who observed guns inside over 100 different homes.
But police did not find any guns inside of any of those 100 homes, which KHOU 11 uncovered after the raid.
Not a single gun.
And not a single suspicion Goines was fabricating evidence.
Initially, Goines wrote in a sworn affidavit that he monitored a drug buy at the couple's home by a confidential informant, who he claimed identified the substance as heroin and informed him about a 9mm handgun inside of the house.
Police obtained a warrant to enter the house unannounced, sparking a shootout that began when cops killed one of the couples' dogs, and ended after Nicholas and Tuttle were both dead and four officers were injured by gunfire.
Police did not find any heroin inside of the home, but they did find 18 grams of marijuana and a gram of "white powder," which has not yet been identified.
Now, Acevedo says he will curtail no-knock raids and allow only SWAT officers to apply for warrants, who would then go through him or a supervisor he appoints for approval and be required to apply for the warrant through a district judge rather than a municipal court judge.
SWAT officers would be required to wear body cameras while activated.
Acevedo also said when narcotics officers search homes in the future, they will be required to knock and announce themselves and will be supervised by a lieutenant.
Former Houston Police Chief Charles A. McClelland said the department's scandal constitutes serious constitutional and civil rights violations, which possibly puts the city in jeopardy.
"It goes to the highest type of corruption any time police officers are accused of fabricating evidence," he said.
"And it has betrayed public trust."
McClelland, who allowed FBI agents to investigate the Houston Police Department for a number of brutality cases, said the scandal calls for an external probe.
"If I was chief, I would also ask the FBI to conduct its own independent investigation," he explained.
"Everybody at HPD needs to be held accountable. From Goines' supervisor all the way to the chief of police."
Houston defense attorney Doug Murphy said Goines' conduct could jeopardize many pending criminal cases.
"The saddest part of all of this is this guy probably would have gotten away with it, but for the fact it was a botched raid and police officers were shot and innocent people killed," Murphy, the president of Harris County Criminal Lawyers Association, told the Houston Chronicle.
After initially blaming the victims and their family, Acevedo is now expressing compassion for Tuttle and Nicholas' family.
"When laziness includes lying on an affidavit, you're more than likely going to get arrested," Acevedo said.
"And we will have no problem putting handcuffs of someone who violated public trust."
"I feel really badly for the Tuttle family, because no matter what we find there will always be a doubt," Acevedo said. " I'm not saying we're not going to find things but there's always 'what could they have done differently,' and my heart goes out to them because, they have a lot of unanswered questions."
However, Acevedo didn't reveal the search warrant had been obtained under false pretenses until February 15 after information about HPD's investigation of the raid was leaked to the press.
Even then, he continued calling Nicholas and Tuttle "suspects" and insisted that the investigation was justified.
Two additional narcotics officers, including Goines' longtime former partner, have also quietly retired from the Houston Police Department in recent weeks.
Each officer has worked for over 20 years with HPD.
But Michael Doyle the attorney representing the Nicholas family says the retirements don't mean much in the grand scope of things.
"That really doesn't answer any questions or change anything," he said.
Read the search warrant here, which repeatedly states police did not know the names of the occupants who lives at 7815 Harding Drive even though they claimed to have been investigating them for three weeks.