Houston's Botched Police Raid is Case Study on how Cops Spin and Twist the Truth
The coverup began from the get-go when the president of the Houston police union lashed out at police accountability activists last month, blaming them for the botched no-knock raid that left four cops shot, two citizens dead and many questions unanswered.
"Enough is enough,” declared Joseph Gamaldi, president of the Houston Police Officers’ Association, in the hours following the deadly raid that we now know was based on lies, deceptions and fabrications.
“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.”
Aside from the blatant threat to retaliate against citizens for exercising their First Amendment rights, Gamaldi's words were meant to shock and divide as well as distract from the fact the raid turned up nothing but a little weed and some white powder police say could be cocaine, meaning it could be anything from baking soda to talcum powder at the rate this investigation is going.
No heroin. No scales. No baggies. No wads of cash. No marked bills. And no 9-millimeter semi-automatic handgun that police swore would be in the house along with the other items, which is how they persuaded the judge to sign the no-knock warrant the night before the raid.
Nothing for the cops to photograph and post online with their self-congratulatory comments about winning the War on Drugs.
Nothing but two innocent people shot and killed in their own home while minding their own business, which happens more often than it should in this country.
Today, four weeks after the botched raid on January 28, Houston narcotics detective Gerald Goines, the initial hero of the story, a cop who took a bullet to the neck to save his comrades if you believe the chief, is now facing felony charges of perjury for fabricating the evidence that went into obtaining the search warrant. Not that he has been charged.
Playing the good cop to Gamaldi's bad cop, Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo said he expects criminal charges to be filed against Goines, but only after a "thorough" and "robust" investigation is completed.
The kind apparently not afforded to citizens like Dennis Tuttle and Rhogena Nicholas, the married couple killed in the raid, who would still be alive today had police bothered to conduct any investigation at all.
A second narcotics detective, Steve Bryant, might also face charges for going along with the false narrative to obtain the warrant, claiming he had witnessed a confidential informant purchase black tar heroin from the home, only to later admit he did not.
In fact, Bryant told investigators he retrieved the two bags of black tar heroin from the console of Goines' police car, so there is no evidence the heroin was ever inside the home of Tuttle and Nicholas.
Also, the entire 175-person narcotics division will undergo an "extensive audit" to see if there are any more dirty cops but the audit will not be free from bias because it will be conducted by cops from the same agency.
Meanwhile, the narrative from the Police PR Spin Machine has shifted from the cops heroically keeping the community safe while haters paint "targets on their backs" (as they invade homes) to it all being just an "isolated incident" and by no means a reflection of the entire department.
But the Houston Police Department has kept Goines employed for more than three decades despite multiple warning signs over the years that he was a ticking time bomb.
The 54-year-old cop, who was hired in 1984, has been involved in several shootings, including one incident in 1997 where he killed a man in a case of road rage, one of two shootings not mentioned in his personnel file, according to an investigative report by the Houston Chronicle.
The Chronicle also reports that Goines has been accused of fabricating evidence to obtain a drug conviction in a pending appellate case. He also appears to have fabricated confidential informants in the past.
In 2013, Goines was involved in another road rage incident where he claimed a man in another car pulled a gun on him.
Goines, who was driving a minivan, called for backup, who pulled the man over and arrested him on a felony charge of aggravated assault on a public servant – even though they found no weapon in his car and there was no way of him knowing Goines was a cop.
So yes, Goines is a reflection of the police department because both union and brass have protected him for years, keeping his personnel file filled with glowing commendations while making his condemnations disappear.
As cops like to say, "sometimes there's justice, sometimes there's just us." And that becomes evident during times like these when they begin circling the wagons to protect one of their own.
At no point since the raid has Acevedo or Gamaldi accepted responsibility for the deaths of Tuttle and Nicholas on behalf of the agency or at least expressed a genuine apology.
And at no point has either cop made a genuine attempt to clear the names of the couple who were, by all accounts, peaceful people who kept to themselves and not dangerous drug dealers as police are claiming.
Instead, the cops continue to play the victim while blaming the victims, the relatives and the neighbors; blaming the botched raid on anybody and everybody but themselves.
Cops Blame Neighbors
Acevedo first said they were responding to "numerous complaints from neighbors" about drug activity at 7815 Harding Street when they raided the home with nine undercover narcotics detectives backed by six uniformed police officers at 5 p.m. on January 28.
"The neighborhood thanked our officers," Acevedo boasted after the raid. "It was a drug house. They described it as a problem location."
The "tip from a neighbor" narrative is textbook cop spin because it can never be proven or disproven, not much different than when cops claim they smell weed during traffic stops or claim they've "received a call" when harassing innocent people on the street.
It's usually bullshit as it was in this case when local media interviewed neighbors who had nothing but good things to say about Dennis Tuttle and Rhogena Nicholas.
Neighbors were also sure to point out the couple did not harbor negative views of police, stressing they would never have shot at the cops had they known they were cops.
And chances are, they did not know they were cops because they were not in uniform. That was the whole point of the no-knock raid, after all. To catch "the suspects" by surprise in the name of "officer safety."
Prior to this last raid, Goines had obtained more than 100 no-knock warrants over the past seven years after convincing judges his confidential informants spotted guns inside the homes.
However, as KHOU 11 uncovered, not once in all those raids did police find guns inside those homes.
More than 100 no-knock raids on homes where confidential informants reported seeing guns, not a single gun found. And not a single suspicion raised from judges or his superiors that he may be fabricating evidence.
Now the Harris County District Attorney's Office is reviewing more than 1,400 cases involving Goines going back three decades, including 27 pending cases.
Although the media first described the raid on Tuttle and Nicholas as an "ambush-style attack" on officers, the couple had every right to defend their home from armed intruders because they were the ones being ambushed.
Nevertheless, Acevedo was quick to call for more gun control in the hours after the raid, using the four shot cops as an example of the "public health epidemic in this country we call gun violence."
Acevedo then traveled to Washington DC to lobby Congress for "red flag" gun control measures that would allow cops take guns from citizens deemed a threat by a judge, even if they have not committed an act of violence.
However, the ease of how quickly Goines obtained a no-knock warrant from a judge that led to an execution on an unsuspecting couple should also raise a red flag about unrestrained police power but nobody is talking to Congress about that.
Cops Blame Mother
Acevedo returned to Houston from D.C. two weeks after the raid to discover his blame-it-on-the-neighbors narrative had crumbled with the leaking of an affidavit stating the confidential informants who reportedly purchased the black tar heroin from the couple did not even exist.
Like Acevedo's fictional neighbors who thanked police for killing the couple, Goines' confidential informant was fictional as well.
The only difference is, Goines swore under penalty of perjury that his imaginary friend existed, meaning there is now enough probable cause to arrest him on felony charges. Certainly more than there ever had been to raid the home of Tuttle and Nicholas.
But Acevedo insisted they must leave no stone unturned in their quest for the truth, meaning they will drag this out for as long for as it takes in the hopes of finding something, anything, that will exonerate the officer.
Again, if only that dedication for a thorough investigation had been applied in the case of Tuttle and Nicholas, the couple would still be alive today. But cops tend to reserve those thorough "robust"investigations for their own.
Acevedo said his agency began investigating the house on January 8 after receiving a call from a "mother of a young woman that was in there doing heroin in this location," insinuating that the young woman in question did not live at the house.
That became the new narrative, the "young woman" doing heroin. He even boasted that he had the audio recording that would prove this, even though he is refusing to release it while appealing to the Texas Attorney General to keep it secret, according to the Chronicle.
The "young woman" in question turned out to be Rhogena Nicholas, the 58-year-old woman who lived in the house for more than 30 years, according to local media who obtained the information from sources from within the department.
Acevedo was trying to paint it as if the couple were harboring a young woman by keeping her smacked out on heroin rather than just admit it was Nicholas' 84-year-old mother who appears to live in Louisiana.
From there, the decision was somehow approved to send a confidential informant to the house, not that they even follow through on that. And from there, 15 heavily armed cops stormed the home.
That was the extent of their "investigation." A phone call from a concerned mother about her adult daughter's personal drug usage to an all-out execution on the daughter and her husband 20 days later.
Acevedo said when officers showed up that day, they did not see any "suspicious activity" but spotted a woman in the street and asked if she had called the cops.
The woman said no, according to police, but then spoke into her phone, saying, "Hey, the police are the dope house," which he said made them suspicious.
But again, this is the type of allegation that can never be proven since police did not bother asking her for more details, so we can assume it's another lie.
Acevedo also made no mention of them actually knocking on the door and talking to the residents inside but somehow made the determination they were selling drugs when the mother, based on Acevedo's narrative, never said they were selling.
The warrant, which you can read here, repeatedly states the cops did not even know the names of the occupants of the home at 7815 Harding Drive, something you would think they would have obtained during the course of their three-week investigation.
“We try to work up a house as much as possible," Acevedo said after the raid. "But 99 times out of a 100 we don’t hang out in the house, we haven’t been in the house. You just do the best you can."
Had they the slightest interest in knowing the name of the residents of the house, all they had to do was type in the address through a search engine on the Harris County Appraiser's Office website, which returned the name of "Dennis Tuttle" in seconds.
But they were more concerned about obtaining a no-knock warrant than they were about finding out who actually lived in the house.
And the judge did not hesitate to grant the request, writing in the warrant that "affiant has established sufficient reason to believe that to knock and announce their purpose by the officers executing this warrant would be futile, dangerous and otherwise inhibit the effective investigation of the offense or offenses related to the purposes of this warrant."
Houston Municipal Judge Gordon Marcum was presented with the affidavit only hours after the fictional confidential informant was said to have purchased the heroin, and less than 24 hours later, the couple and their dog were dead.
The quickness of how it all went down suggests this is standard procedure for the Houston police narcotics division, except in this case, they were met by gunfire, which was not part of the plan.
And now they're trying to blame it on the mother, who likely did not want her daughter killed. The mother has not spoken publicly about the shooting.
Acevedo is essentially saying had the mother not called, they would not have killed the couple.
And he's right but perhaps they should start issuing public service announcements where they inform citizens that a phone call to police can lead to an execution of a family member.
Most Americans, for better or worse, are still under the impression that cops are out to protect them, which is why so many seem to have cops on their speed dial.
Cops Blames Victims
Despite not a shred of evidence indicating Tuttle and Nicholas were selling heroin out of their home, Acevedo still refers to them as "the suspects," suggesting to media they may even turn out to be serial killers or child molestors.
In his February 15 press conference, a reporter asks the following question beginning at 18:15 in the above video:
"What do you say to the family and neighbors who say ... 'These were not drug dealers, these were nice people, they may have smoked some pot, but we know them, they lived in the neighborhood, we've known them for 30 years, this is not who they were' ... and it turns out, they were right?"
Acevedo responded in a condescending "popo knows best" tone, asserting that police have not yet concluded the investigation into Tuttle and Nicholas.
"You're concluding they are right, you are making conclusions."
"Let me just say this, we've all have seen people who murder people, we've all seen people who molest their kids, we've all seen people who do some horrific things, and guess what the neighbors have always said ... 'Oh my god, I never knew. I thought they were the nicest guys' ... so I'm not going to go there with you and I'm not going to make any conclusions on that until we finish the investigation."
It should not need to be explained but generally when stories surface about people expressing shock over their neighbors' recently exposed criminal secrets, it is usually right after the cops have raided the home and have collected evidence proving their crimes, so that ship has sailed.
Speaking of which, the cops did not even list the .357 magnum they claim Nuttle used to shoot them among the guns listed on the evidence inventory list, which include a 20-gauge Beretta ALS shotgun, a 12-gauge Remington 1100 shotgun, a Remington 700 bolt-action rifle and a .22-caliber Winchester 190 semi-automatic rifle.
Was the .357 magnum fabricated as well?
Cops Clam Up
It's been a disastrous spin campaign for Acevedo and Gamaldi because everything they've said over the past four weeks has backfired in their faces, causing them to lose control of the narrative.
They are now undergoing the predictable process of distancing themselves from Goines, especially now that the FBI is investigating Goines and Bryant, the second officer suspended in this matter.
But it was just four weeks ago that Acevedo was gushing over Goines, calling him a “big teddy bear” with “tremendous courage," telling reporters that "I want some of his courage to rub off on me," hoping to tap into the pro-cop sensibilities most Americans have drilled into their heads from birth.
And Gamaldi was trying to do the same through his "War on Police" spin tactic but that just got the attention of the same police accountability activists he was threatening.
Acevedo saw Gamaldi's comments as an opportunity to play the "good cop," one of the oldest police schemes in manipulating the minds of people, calling a press conference to berate Gamaldi for his threatening comments.
But his continuous use of the "blame the neighbors" tactic did not go well with the neighbors, who voiced their displeasure to the media.
But even when criticizing cops over the raid, neighbors were sure not to be overly critical.
"It takes me to a whole different level about cops," neighbor Sarah Sanchez told Click 2 Houston news.
"I know just because there's one sour apple in the bunch doesn't mean they're all sour, but at the same time, it's not just one man ... saying, 'Hey, go do this.' They all should have done their homework," Sanchez said.
Truth is, the original meaning of the rotten apples idiom is that one bad apple spoils the entire bunch, meaning if one cop is corrupt, the entire division or department is corrupt.
But the Police PR Spin Machine changed the meaning of the idiom through repetitive spin tactics in the media that it now means the opposite of the original meaning in the minds of most Americans.
The video above is from Chief Acevedo's initial press conference and the video below shows police union chief Joe Gamaldi putting on his best hyperbole to distract from the fact that they just murdered two innocent people.