Drug War

Houston Cop Involved in Deadly Drug Raid Relieved of Duty Due to 'Ongoing Questions'

The questions reportedly relate to a search warrant affidavit that described drugs and a gun police never found.

|

Google Maps

An undercover narcotics officer who was involved in the bungled drug raid that killed a middle-aged couple in their Houston home last week "has been relieved of duty due to ongoing questions that cannot be answered until the case agent is interviewed," the local police union revealed in a statement yesterday. A Houston Police Department spokesperson "confirmed that the senior police officer, who joined the department in 1996, must temporarily surrender his badge pending the outcome of an internal affairs investigation," reports KHOU, the CBS station in Houston.

The officer in charge of the investigation that led to the raid, which triggered a shootout in which Dennis Tuttle and Rhogena Nicholas were killed and five officers were injured, has not been interviewed yet because "his gunshot wound has resulted in him being incapacitated while surgeries continue," the union said. Citing "three law enforcement sources," KHOU says the "ongoing questions" are related to the suspended officer's role in obtaining the no-knock search warrant authorizing the raid, which was based on a confidential informant's claim that he had bought heroin from a man in the house, where he reported seeing a 9mm handgun and "a large quantity of plastic baggies" containing heroin. Police found neither of those things when they searched the house the next day, even though the house supposedly was being watched in the interim.

KHOU says detectives plan to interview the C.I. to see if his account matches the information in the warrant affidavit. The author of the affidavit, whose name is blacked out in the publicly released copy, swore that he searched the C.I. before sending him to make a "controlled buy," that the C.I. emerged from the house with "a quantity of brown powder" later identified as black-tar heroin, that he was watching the C.I. the whole time, and that afterward "surveillance was placed on the above location in question by the narcotics officers." Since the alleged heroin and 9mm pistol had disappeared by the time police broke into the house the following evening, it seems likely that one or more of those details was not accurate.

The police union's statement decried "rumors" that the narcotics officers had raided the wrong house by mistake. "To be clear," it said, "officers were not on the wrong street and entry at that location was not made at random. We would refer you to the call slip from that location on January 8, over two weeks prior to the shooting." That record relates to a call from an anonymous woman who complained that her daughter was using drugs inside the house at 7815 Harding Street. Police Chief Art Acevedo likewise has criticized "conspiracy theorists" who speculated that the target was supposed to be 7815 Hardy Street, which is 12 miles from the house where Tuttle and Nicholas lived.

Acevedo himself is largely responsible for that speculation, because on the night of the raid he repeatedly gave "Hardy Street" as the location of the house and seemed to be reading the address from a sheet of paper. The idea that the cops had gotten confused seemed plausible in light of the disappearing heroin and the testimony of neighbors who said they had never observed any suspicious activity at the house and described Tuttle and Nicholas, who had no criminal convictions and had lived on the block for more than two decades, as perfectly nice people who never caused trouble. Those comments seemed inconsistent with Acevedo's claim that the house was so notorious as a drug den that "the neighborhood thanked our officers" for raiding it.

The "wrong house" theory took a serious blow when it turned out that at least some of the officers who had participated in the raid also had participated in the investigation that led to it, meaning they surely would have noticed if they were 12 miles from where they were supposed to be. The description and address in the warrant affidavit make it clear that no such screwup occurred. But it is obvious from the outcome that other kinds of screwups did occur, possibly coupled with deliberate dishonesty.

"When an officer-involved shooting (OIS) occurs at HPD," Acevedo said in a statement yesterday, "we consider it a legal and moral obligation to conduct a thorough and impartial investigation into the circumstances leading up to and resulting in the OIS. As I said last Thursday to our community, we will leave no stone unturned to determine the good, the bad and the ugly….I know that in addition to the OIS itself, many have questions regarding the circumstances surrounding the search warrant. All of these questions are part of our ongoing criminal and administrative investigations. Rather than releasing piecemeal information, consistent with our commitment to transparency, we will report our findings at the conclusion of our investigations."

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

51 responses to “Houston Cop Involved in Deadly Drug Raid Relieved of Duty Due to 'Ongoing Questions'

  1. Acevedo himself is largely responsible for that speculation, because on the night of the raid he repeatedly gave “Hardy Street” as the location of the house and seemed to be reading the address from a sheet of paper. The idea that the cops had gotten confused seemed plausible in light of the disappearing heroin and the testimony of neighbors who said they had never observed any suspicious activity at the house and described Tuttle and Nicholas, who had no criminal convictions and had lived on the block for more than two decades, as perfectly nice people who never caused trouble. Those comments seemed inconsistent with Acevedo’s claim that the house was so notorious as a drug den that “the neighborhood thanked our officers” for raiding it.

    Acevedo seems like an incompetent boob.

    1. “Incompetent boob” was my nickname for my ex-wife’s left breast.

      1. Bazonga sinister.

  2. So a paid vacation?

    1. Well, at least he got shot.

      1. Nope. The officer relieved of duty wasn’t shot. The case officer in charge of the investigation was shot, and they’re using this fact to claim no investigation can be started until he can be interviewed. Bet he’s in the hospital and not available for interview for a long time.

  3. Come on. Can we call this a bullshit clusterfuck of a raid without throwing 7815 Hardy Street under the bus?

    1. The residents there have not been proven innocent.

    2. Take a look at both houses on google maps street view. 7815 Hardy street, right next to a highway and looks like a crack house. While 7815 Harding St is surrounded by houses with extensive fences, the house does NOT look like a crack house. Face it, most crack houses don’t have flowers planted out front.

      May the officers involved be indicted for murder, and the city of Houston, Tx be literally sued out of existence by the victims families.

  4. “When an officer-involved shooting (OIS) occurs at HPD,” Acevedo said in a statement yesterday, “we consider it a legal and moral obligation to conduct a thorough and impartial investigation?consistent with our commitment to transparency, we will report our findings at the conclusion of our investigations.”

    If you were committed to truth and transparency, you would not have used the weasel phrase “officer-involved shooting” and passive voice. You would have said, “When one of our officers shoots someone…”.

    1. No, a shooting occurred, that’s totally different than a specific person shooting another specific person and killing them.

      1. Guns are so evil. You never know what they might do.

        1. Same with narcotics detectives apparently.

  5. Cheer when Thug Pigs are shot in the face

  6. The point I always like to make about no-knock raids is this:

    They are justified because “the perps might otherwise flush the evidence down the toilet after we politely knock on the door”, or some such.

    Well, if your “enemy” is flushed down the toilet, you’ve won already, right?

    So here is proof that the “war on drugs” is a bald-faced BIG FAT LIE, on it’s face; it is REALLY a war on PEOPLE!!!

    1. Yepper! If their goal really was to destroy drugs and get dealers off the street, the simplest, cheapest, safest way is to surround the place in some non-threatening way, then use bullhorns to announce that in 5 hours, you will serve a warrant to search it.

      The drugs, if they exist, will be flushed and destroyed. The cops will search and find nothing. The drug dealers will be up to their ears in debt to their dealers.

      Aside from the rush of killing dogs and innocent people while pretending to be in Iraq or Afghanistan, what more could a real drug warrior ask for?

      1. Easy to fix. . .Shut the water off to the property 24 hours before.

        1. Might not work?I’ve heard addicts don’t poop.

          1. The commenter doesn’t care if they poop or not, he is referring to taking away the opportunity for them to flush the illegal drugs down the toilet…

  7. I heard somewhere that the Houston police chief said that if “people start shooting at you, you can shoot back” so by that logic, the inhabitants of the house were 100% justified in shooting at the cops.

  8. So, has no one gone by and knocked on the door of the other house? Just to see what it looks like or who lives there?

    1. So. Fucking. Weird.

      I go to the address of the shooting and I get a result, pronto.

      I go to the alleged alternative address (which the thumbnail makes look like a prototypical crackhouse) and I get a ‘Server Error. Please try again later.’

      When I go do and image search I get all kinds of other houses *except* the one at the specific address.

      Not sure whether I hate or loathe Google at this point, but it’s a bit fucking scary either way.

        1. Yeah, I “walked” my way on streetview to the pic of the actual address.

          Either it’s the drug house they’re looking for or they could’ve gone into the place guns blazing and killed no one. Possibly both.

          Still, weird (in the “What are the odds of this coincidence?” sense) to me that the one search works straight away and the other doesn’t.

          1. Video of 7815 Hardy Street by local liberty activist in Houston.

            A video of Harding Street residence is also at the guy’s youtube channel.

            1. Video of 7815 Hardy Street

              HPD does have body cameras according to the guy.

        2. Absolutely. 7815 Hardy street looks like it was boarded up and abandoned years ago.

          1. It has recently been occupied and fences and cameras installed. Watch the video.

    2. If the information can’t be found on twitter, then the information doesn’t exist.

  9. Also, you have to wonder what sort of morons allow *the case officer* to be part of the raid, let alone lead the charge through the door.

    That dude should have been sitting in a car drinking coffee until the scene was secured *and then* he and his detectin’ team go in.

  10. So what’s the word on Jussie whatshisname, who got fake hatecrimed in MAGA country Chicago?
    Any new developments, Reason?

  11. “his gunshot wound has resulted in him being incapacitated while surgeries continue,”

    Pretty soon passive voice and excessive wordiness will have them speaking a foreign language.

    1. Someone needs to do a police sitcom called “Strunk & White” about two partners in the police department name Strunk and White who always speak clearly and concisely and never use the passive voice, saying exactly what they mean. Just think of the hilarity that would ensue!

  12. “Since the alleged heroin and 9mm pistol had disappeared by the time police broke into the house the following evening, it seems likely that one or more of those details was not accurate.”

    Maybe they were tipped off. If so, mission accomplished and no need to raid the house.

  13. The results from the police search are up at local Houston media sites. Short version: half oz ish of weed, still no positive id on baggie of white powder (which is suspicious in itself), but it’s a gram or two. Couple of fudd rfles and shotguns, oddly no mention of the 357, and definitely no 9mm semiautomatic handgun.

    I am wondering if this is a case of neighbor knows someone at HPD and in best Third World LE fashion, use their contacts to induce the police to raid the neighbor over some slight.

    Lol at sending undercovers to do door kicking.

    1. Oh, thanks again Mr. Sullum, for keeping the light on this story.

    2. Oh, thanks again Mr. Sullum, for keeping the light on this story.

  14. This little detail was in an article in the chronicle today:

    “Initially, officials said the purchase netted black tar heroin, though records later showed that it was brown powder.”

    It could be fucking Quik, for all the damn cops know. Also, this is interesting:

    “Officers did not appear to have recovered the handgun that Acevedo said Tuttle used in the gun battle.”

    What!?!?!?

    https://tinyurl.com/y4udyhze

    1. So the next question the press needs to ask is what weapons were the officers carrying and who was shot by which weapon.

  15. We’re gunna need a bigger wood chipper

  16. Plot thickens. The investigation was initiated by citizen complaint about her daughter doing drugs at the home. (Then a confidential informant was ostensibly sent to the home, wherein the CI purchased heroin, but this new news tidbit is about the initial complaint.)

    Per Ktrk.com, the daughter in question was one of the two homeowners, who, of course, died during the raid.

    Gee, thanks, Mom.

    1. This is not the first time that someone who got the police involved trying to “help” a close relative got that same relative killed by the police.

      Always amazes me just how naive people are to inject a bunch of people who are lethal force personified into a situation unless there’s no other alternative.

      I’d bet this mom – who probably is now working through funeral arrangements – is wondering just why she did such a stupid thing.

  17. Another thought. I’ve said before here that I don’t think the Harding Street instead of Hardy Street theory holds much water. Despite the lack of visible cameras or hardened windows or doors on the raided house. The streets are 10s of miles away from each other, and Hardy Street, or rather, the Hardy Toll Road right next to it, is a major enough street in Houston that anyone who lives here wouldn’t confuse them (C.f., if the street was instead some permutation of “Post Oak”, which I think every Houston developer is legally obligated to include one version of in every new development.)

    Further, and the point I’m trying to make, one big point in favor of the cops raiding the right house, is that the CI’s description of the guy s/he bought the brown heroin from is pretty close to that of the late Mr. Tuttle: white guy, 5’11, 180 or so, mid 50s or so. How’d they know that without seeing him? But if you already know the other homeowner from the initial complaint, not hard to get the other homeowner from that source, and read the description off his, e.g. drivers license.

    Assuming the CI or UC was making stuff up.

  18. Start working at home with Google. It’s the most-financially rewarding I’ve ever done. On tuesday I got a gorgeous BMW after having earned $8699 this last month. I actually started five months/ago and practically straight away was bringin in at least $96, per-hour….??…..HEAR>> http://www.GeoSalary.com

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.