Private investigation raises troubling questions about Houston raid

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Austin Police Department

Story date 5-15-17; posted 6-6-17

An independent forensics review at a Houston residence in Pecan Park where a botched drug raid occurred turned up plenty of evidence left behind and may tell a different story than the official police account.

An attorney representing the family of the couple who lived there, who were killed in the raid, told the Houston Chronicle the review indicated a sloppy police investigation of the scene.

“It doesn’t appear that they took the basic steps to confirm and collect the physical evidence to know whether police were telling the truth,” attorney Mike Doyle told the newspaper. “That’s the whole point of forensic scene documentation. That’s the basic check on people just making stuff up.”

At the home, the private forensics team found a man’s shirt filled with bullet holes and with the evidence tag attached, partially filled drug baggies, bullets still embedded in walls and two teeth in a dried puddle of blood, the newspaper reported.

Rhogena Nicholas and Dennis Tuttle were shot to death there by the police on Jan. 28, and the private investigators say they found no indication the pair fired shots at police.

Records from the Houston Police Department indicate that undercover drug officers burst in through the front door and fired on a pit bull that lunged at them. The report says that Tuttle ran to the front of the house and shot at officers with a .357 revolver, hitting officer Gerald Goines. When Goines fell to the floor, Nicholas tried to get his weapon, according to the report. Another officer then shot and killed her.

The report says that Tuttle continued to exchange fire with police, and was eventually killed after wounding another three officers.

Police expected to find substantial amounts of heroin, but only uncovered 18 grams of marijuana and 1.5 grams of cocaine. Goines has since retired after being placed under investigation amid allegations he lied on the search warrant to justify the raid, according to the Chronicle.

The newspaper noted that in addition to the Houston police, the FBI and the Harris County District Attorney’s Office have started separate inquiries into the matter and are considering criminal charges against some of the officers involved.

The private forensic examination is raising additional questions. The new study found that the dog was shot far from the front door and that there is no clear evidence that Tuttle shot at officers.

“The initial bullet trajectories appear to be somewhat contradictory,” Louisiana-based attorney Chuck Bourque, who is also representing the Nicholas family, told the Chronicle. “We see no evidence that anybody inside the house was firing toward the door.”

And some bullet holes were found on the exterior of the home at least a foot from the front door.

“You can’t see into the house from there,” Doyle told the newspaper. “You’re firing into the house through a wall.”

2 COMMENTS

  1. So sad. And even worse, the family and loved ones still have no closure. Very unprofessional of HPD. I do hope that justice is served .

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