Prosecutors in Houston have charged a police officer in connection with the death of a couple and injuries to several officers that resulted from a botched drug raid in January.
Gerald Goines, the narcotics officer who led the raid and wrote the affidavit used to justify it, faces charges of first-degree murder, Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg announced Friday. Another officer involved in the raid, Steven Bryant, was charged with tampering with a government document.
“We have not seen a case like this in Houston,” Ogg said. “I have not seen a case like this in my 30-plus years of practicing law.”
If convicted, Goines faces as many as 99 years in prison for each charge of murder, and Bryant could receive up to a two-year sentence. Goines’s attorney, Nicole DeBorde, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The Jan. 28 raid has drawn media attention for months, as a series of disclosures have raised questions about its justification and the motivations of some of the officers involved.
The couple, disabled Navy veteran Dennis Tuttle and his wife, Rhogena Nicholas, were shot after police forcibly entered their house while executing a no-knock raid, an aggressive police tactic typically reserved for gun and drug cases.
Police said initially that officers were fired on as soon as they entered the house, but lawyers hired by the victims’ family members say the claims are false. And though the couple were investigated on the suspicions that they were selling heroin, police did not find any during their raid.
Law enforcement officials have watched as the case unraveled further upon an internal investigation.
The informant cited in the affidavit later told investigators he never bought drugs at the home, as the affidavit alleged. The evidence used to justify the raid was questionable enough that the city’s police chief, Art Acevedo, later told reporters the warrant Goines wrote was based on “some untruths or lies,” and that he expected criminal charges against the officer.
Ogg called the charges “the tip of the iceberg,” as her office investigates the raid. Her office said that prosecutors believe Goines lied about the victims’ drug activity, threat level and other factors they used to obtain the no-knock warrant.
Other investigations were opened, as well. The FBI opened a civil rights investigation into the raid in late February. The district attorney’s office said it would review 1,400 criminal cases Goines was involved in and 800 that Bryant worked on.
Both Goines and Bryant retired as the questions mounted.
Lawyers hired by the deceased victims’ families have done a detailed forensic investigation as well. They said they found no evidence the couple fired toward police when they entered the home. And they said they did not believe the initial police claim that Nicholas had lunged for an officer’s weapon is true.
Mike Doyle, who represents the victims’ family members, said in a statement Friday that the charges are important developments but “should only be the beginning of the pursuit of justice” in the killings.
Goines is still to be investigated over claims he stole guns, drugs and money, the Chronicle reported.
The officers were expected to surrender Friday afternoon, Ogg said.
Bryant’s lawyer, Andy Drumheller, declined to comment on the specifics of the case against Bryant, saying he didn’t have enough information yet.
“I am troubled that a person who wasn’t involved in drafting the affidavit for the search warrant, never fired his weapon and didn’t enter the home on Harding Street was given a couple of hours notice that he’s been charged with a state jail felony on a Friday afternoon and needs to turn himself in,” he said.
Drumheller said Bryant will post bond.
Brittney Martin contributed to this report.