Pecan Park raid

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Pecan Park raid
LocationPecan Park, Houston Harris County, Texas, United States
DateJanuary 28, 2019 (2019-01-28)
Attack type
Shootout
Deaths2
Injured5

On January 28, 2019, in the Pecan Park area in the East End district of Houston,[1] Houston Police Department (HPD) officers initiated a no-knock raid on a house, killing the two homeowners, a married husband and wife: Dennis Wayne Tuttle and Rhogena Ann Nicholas.[2] They were ages 59 and 58, respectively.[3] Five HPD officers sustained injuries.[1]

St. John Barned-Smith and Keri Blakinger of the Houston Chronicle described the event as "one of the worst [scandals] to hit HPD in years".[1]

Incident[edit]

The officers expected to find illegal drugs at the house, but the informant stated to have been the source of the complaint could not be found, and no drugs were present.[1] Later information showed that one of the officers had lied so he could get a warrant for the no-knock raid.[4][5] 54-year old Gerald Goines, named in court documents related to the case,[6] was accused of making false statements on the affidavit.[7]

After the officers entered the home they shot a dog owned by the couple. According to the HPD's version, Tuttle was armed and engaged the officers, while Nicholas was unarmed and apparently shot when reaching for a wounded officer's shotgun.[8] The policemen suffered a total of four bullet wounds from a man who was armed with a six-shot revolver.[4]

Tuttle sustained up to nine bullet wounds. His head and neck; his chest; his left-side shoulder, forearm, hand, thigh, and buttock; and his right wrist were affected by gunshots. Other injuries include "minor blunt force" ones hitting his left ear, extremity wounds, bullet grazing on the right forearm, neck lacerations possibly caused by a necklace, and upper left-side abdomen abrasions.[2]

Nicholas sustained two bullet wounds, with other injuries tentatively attributed to bullet fragments. Nicholas had been hit in the thigh and chest, and fragments may have affected the right-side leg and thigh.[2]

The injured police officers were treated at Memorial Hermann–Texas Medical Center.[9] Four of them had received injuries from bullets and another had a knee injury.[10] Houston's police chief, Art Acevedo, said a backup police officer shot Nicholas.[9]

Victims[edit]

Tuttle, who was raised in the Denver Harbor neighborhood of Houston, once served in the U.S. Navy. Tuttle's brother Cliff stated that Tuttle liked the water and chose the Navy for that reason.[11] He had sustained injuries from an accident,[12] and was honorably discharged.[3] He fathered two children with his wife, and suffered from a car crash and additional accidents.[11] At some point forward he experienced seizures. He was not working at the time of his death.[12] Tuttle's sister, Elizabeth, stated that the man "had debilitating injuries for many years and it's a sad situation."[3] He married Nicholas circa 1999,[3] after having a ceremony at a courthouse. The two had ended their previous relationships prior to becoming romantically involved.[11] Tuttle owned the house on Harding Street.[9]

Nicholas (1960-2019) was born in Ackerman, Mississippi to a dentist and a housewife. She was of partial Lebanese descent through her father. Beginning circa 1962 she grew up in Macon, Mississippi, attending Central Academy in Macon and Bauder College in Atlanta, before moving to her parents' new residence in Florida. She moved to Houston in the 1980s with her then-boyfriend. At the time of her death she was taking care of Tuttle and was paid by her ex-boyfriend to help with his day-to-day life.[12] At the time some members of her family lived in the Houston area.[3]

Investigations[edit]

The autopsies of Tuttle and Nicholas were done on January 29 and January 30, 2019, by Dr. Dwayne Wolf, the deputy chief medical examiner of the Harris County Institute of Forensic Sciences in Houston. KHOU-TV received the reports on May 2.[2]

The Houston Police Department conducted its own investigation. On May 15, 2019, HD announced that the investigation had concluded, with the information given to prosecutors.[13]

The Tuttle and Nicholas families hired a forensic team headed by Mick Maloney formerly of Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS). The team processed the crime scene 10 May 2019, three months after the raid. They were surprised to find evidence left behind or abandoned by the earlier Houston Forensic Science Center police investigation. They mapped out the trajectories from the bullet holes in the walls with the goal to reconstruct the shooting by matching bloodstains and bullet trajectories in the house to the wounds of the victims. The team spent four days reviewing the evidence. Attorney Chuck Bourgue told the Houston Chronicle they found no evidence anyone in the house fired toward the door nor that Tuttle's two rifles and two shotguns had even been fired. The team did find evidence that suggests police outside the house fired blindly through the walls.[14]

On July 24, 2019, the federal grand jury investigating the raid heard testimony from Houston police officers.[15]

On August 23, 2019, District Attorney Kim Ogg announced that officer Gerald Goines had been charged with two counts of felony murder. Also, officer Steven Bryant had been charged with evidence tampering for "knowingly providing false information" in a police report.[16]

In November 2019 the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) arrested Goines as well as others as part of the organization's investigation.[17]

On November 20, 2019 a federal grand jury returned indictments on federal charges in the Pecan Park raid case. Goines was charged with making false statements and depriving the victims’ constitutional right to be secure against unreasonable searches. Steven M. Bryant, another ex-HPD officer, was charged with making false statements and obstructing an official proceeding with further false statements. Patricia Ann Garcia was charged with making several fake 911 calls including the false claims that her daughter was in the Tuttle residence doing drugs and that the Tuttles were drug addicts who possessed machine guns. Authorities took the three into custody.[18] Goines is charged with seven counts total; he surrendered to the FBI at his residence.[19]

In January 2020 a Harris County grand jury indicted, under Texas law, Goines and Steven Bryant, charging both with tampering with government documents and the first with felony murder.[20]

Reaction[edit]

Radley Balko in the Washington Post wrote a criticism of no-knock raids based on this incident.[21] The Houston Chronicle editorial board criticized HPD, stating that it lost the trust of Houstonians.[22]

Goines began working for HPD circa 1985.[23] After the incident, Goines's lawyer stated that he was retiring.[24] After the raid HPD began requiring approval from the department head or a designee of that head before any no-knock raid.[25]

The relatives of the deceased filed the first document in a lawsuit against the municipal government in July 2019.[26]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d Barned-Smith, St. John; Keri Blakinger (2019-03-04). "DA reviewing 800 cases of second officer involved in deadly Pecan Park drug raid". Houston Chronicle. Retrieved 2019-03-16.
  2. ^ a b c d Kennedy, Megan; Mario Diaz; Aaron Wische; Sophia Beausoleil (2019-05-02). "Autopsy reports for victims in botched Harding Street raid revealed". KHOU-TV. Retrieved 2019-05-04.
  3. ^ a b c d e Carter, Marla (2019-01-31). "What we know about husband and wife killed in Houston officer-involved shooting". KTRK-TV. Retrieved 2019-03-16.
  4. ^ a b Sullum, Jacob (5 May 2019). "Houston Police Shot Man Killed in Fraudulent Drug Raid at Least Eight Times". Retrieved 30 July 2019.
  5. ^ Hutchinson, Bill (2019-02-17). "Houston police embroiled in scandal after 'lies' found in no-knock warrant that led to fatal raid on alleged drug house". ABC News. Retrieved 2019-03-16.
  6. ^ Blakinger, Keri; St. John Barned-Smith (2019-02-15). "Houston police officer in drug raid had previous allegations against him". Houston Chronicle. Retrieved 2019-03-16. The Chronicle typically does not publish the names of undercover officers, but Goines was publicly identified Friday after the release of recent court documents.
  7. ^ "DA reviewing 1,400 cases linked to Houston officer accused of lying to justify deadly drug raid". CBS News. 2019-02-20. Retrieved 2019-03-16.
  8. ^ Weingarten, Dean (2019-02-12). "No-Knock Houston Raid Inventory Raises Questions after 2 Killed, 4 Wounded". AmmoLand.com. Retrieved 2019-07-02.
  9. ^ a b c Ketterer, Samantha (2019-01-29). "HPD chief Acevedo IDs suspects, gives update on injured officers". Houston Chronicle. Retrieved 2019-04-18.
  10. ^ Barned-Smith, St. John; Nicole Hensley (2019-01-28). "4 HPD officers shot in southeast Houston narcotics operation, a fifth injured". Houston Chronicle. Retrieved 2019-04-18.
  11. ^ a b c Blakinger, Keri; St. John Barned-Smith (2019-04-16). "Grieving family members tour Pecan Park home as questions swirl about botched drug raid". Houston Chronicle. Retrieved 2019-04-17.
  12. ^ a b c Blakinger, Keri; St. John Barned-Smith (2019-03-21). "'I want them to clear her name': Mother of woman killed in botched Pecan Park drug raid speaks out". Houston Chronicle. Retrieved 2019-03-22.
  13. ^ Blakinger, Keri; St. John Barned-Smith (2019-05-15). "Houston police investigation into botched drug raid completed, turned over to prosecutors". Houston Chronicle. Retrieved 2019-05-16.
  14. ^ Keri Blakinger and St. John Barned-Smith, "Evidence left behind after botched Pecan Park drug raid raises new questions about shootings", Houston Chronicle, 13 May 2019.
  15. ^ St. John Barned-Smith, "Federal grand jury hears testimony from Houston police officers about botched Pecan Park raid", Houston Chronicle, 24 Jul 2019.
  16. ^ Jacob Sullum, "Houston Narcotics Cop Who Instigated a Deadly Drug Raid Is Charged With Murder", Reason, 23 Aug 2019.
  17. ^ https://www.houstonchronicle.com/news/houston-texas/houston/article/Gerald-Goines-ex-cop-at-center-of-Harding-Street-14848925.php
  18. ^ Department of Justice Office of Public Affairs, "Two Former Houston Police Department Officers Indicted in Connection to Fatal Raid", The United States Department of Justice, 20 Nov 2019.
  19. ^ Barned-Smith, St. John; Keri Blakinger; Gabrielle Banks (2019-11-20). "FBI arrest 2 police officers, 911 caller linked to deadly Harding Street drug raid". Houston Chronicle. Retrieved 2019-11-21.
  20. ^ "Grand jury indicts former HPD officers for alleged involvement in Harding Street raid". KHOU. 2020-01-15. Retrieved 2020-01-16.
  21. ^ Balko, Radley (2019-02-11). "A fatal Houston drug raid is a familiar story of needless violence, death and destruction". Washington Post. Retrieved 2019-03-16.
  22. ^ "Cops lied, people died. Here's how HPD can restore Houston's trust [Editorial]". Houston Chronicle. 2019-02-16. Retrieved 2019-03-16.
  23. ^ Willey, Jessica (2019-02-16). "HPD officer at center of controversial raid shot twice before". KTRK-TV. Retrieved 2019-03-30.
  24. ^ "HPD narcotics raid officer retiring in midst of review". KTRK-TV. Retrieved 2019-03-30.
  25. ^ Shay, Miya (2019-02-20). "HPD announces new oversight and revisions after deadly raid". KTRK-TV. Retrieved 2019-03-30.
  26. ^ "Two people were killed in a botched drug raid. Investigators say the official story was a lie". Washington Post. Retrieved Jul 29, 2019.

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