Ex-Houston Police Officer Accused of Lying to Get Warrant for Deadly Raid Charged With Murder
A former Houston police officer who authorities said lied to obtain a search warrant for a raid in which two people died and five officers were injured has been charged with murder, a prosecutor said Friday.
Gerald Goines, who had a 35-year law enforcement career, faces two felony murder charges, said Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg. A second former officer, Steven Bryant, is accused of tampering with evidence.
“The eyes of this community and the nation are on this case; it is critical to the public trust that we reveal the true facts about what, how and why two civilians were killed in their own home by members of the Houston Police Narcotics Squad 15,” Ogg said in a statement.
The two officers were part of the tactical team during the botched January 28 raid of a home that killed Rhogena Nicholas and Dennis Tuttle and injured officers who were part of that team. Goines was injured in the shooting.
Goines obtained a warrant for a “no knock” raid from a municipal judge under false pretenses, which included claiming a criminal informant purchased heroin from a man at the address the day before and that the man selling drugs was known to have a gun, among other things, which meant there was no need for police to knock on a door before entering, Ogg said.
Ogg said that because two people died while Goines was allegedly committing a felony — tampering with a government record by obtaining one under false pretenses — he was charged with two counts of felony murder in the deaths. She indicated a grand jury could consider capital charges.
Bryant was charged with evidence tampering because he provided a supplement to the original report after the raid which contained falsehoods, authorities said. The officer allegedly said he had previously assisted Goines in the investigation of the home and that during the investigation he found baggies with a brown substance he believed to be heroin that matched the heroin purchased by an informant prior to the raid, Ogg said.
Authorities said they were reviewing more than 14,000 cases within the department.
Nicole DeBorde, attorney for Goines, said she wished a grand jury had reviewed the case before charges were brought. Her client has cooperated and has a $150,000 bond, DeBorde said.
Bryant’s attorney, Andy Drumheller, said the former officer turned himself in and was posting bond.
Drumheller said Bryant had no role in drafting the police affidavit, never discharged his weapon and did not enter the residence where the raid occurred. Bryant has cooperated with the investigation and “we will defend him in court.”
Police Chief Art Acevedo in February said the department will change its policy and now require officers wanting to conduct a raid without knocking on the suspect’s door or ringing the doorbell to get approval first from the chief or the chief’s designee.
Police have said Goines used a confidential informant to confirm that drugs were being sold in the home that police raided, according to affidavits obtained by CNN. The affidavits, dated February 14, detail the investigation after the raid.
Following the raid, Goines named his informants to investigators, but the informants told authorities they had not worked with Goines on this particular case, according to affidavits.
When narcotics officers breached the front door of the home, gunfire erupted almost immediately.
One suspect retreated to the back of a room and re-emerged, returning fire, police said. The second was shot while trying to wrestle a shotgun away from an officer, they said. Both suspects were killed.
Officers found marijuana, five guns and a white powder believed to be cocaine or the painkiller fentanyl, Acevedo said after the raid.
The Houston Police Officers’ Union said it would not comment on the case against the two officers because of criminal proceedings. But the union said it was pleased no other officers were implicated.
Ogg said she has not seen a case like this in 30 years. Asked what she would say to the Tuttle and Nicholas families, the prosecutor said: “I want to tell them how sorry we are as a city and a county for actions that resulted in the loss of their loved ones’ lives.”
The family of Rhogena Nicholas said it wants to see sworn depositions of those involved in management of the police department’s narcotics squad. “We believe the court has sufficient basis to order the depositions requested to investigate possible wrongful death, civil rights and other legal claims,” the family said.