Drug War

Houston Police Shot Man Killed in Fraudulent Drug Raid at Least Eight Times

Dennis Tuttle and his wife, Rhogena Nicholas, who was shot twice, were pronounced dead shortly after police invaded their home based on a "controlled buy" that never happened.

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Houston narcotics officers shot Dennis Tuttle at least eight times during the January 28 drug raid that killed him and his wife, Rhogena Nicholas, at their home on Harding Street. The no-knock raid, based on allegations that Tuttle and Nicholas were selling heroin, found no heroin and no evidence of drug dealing. The officer who obtained the warrant, Gerald Goines, reported a "controlled buy" at the house that apparently never happened.

According to an autopsy report dated March 19, Tuttle suffered gunshot wounds in his head and neck, chest, left shoulder, left buttock (which was struck twice), left thigh, left forearm, left hand, right wrist, and right forearm (two graze wounds). The report says the chest injury "may represent a re-entrance wound of a fragmented bullet associated with one of the gunshot wounds of the upper extremities." The officers reported that they shot Tuttle after he fired at them with a .357 Magnum revolver in response to their armed invasion of his home, during which they killed a dog with a shotgun immediately after crashing through the door.

Another autopsy report, also dated March 19, says Nicholas was shot in the torso and right thigh. Police said they shot her after she moved toward the officer with the shotgun, who had collapsed on a couch after being shot by Tuttle. They said they believed she was trying to take away the shotgun. There is no video of the raid to corroborate that account. Both Tuttle, who was 59, and Nicholas, who was 58, were pronounced dead at 5:15 p.m., shortly after police broke into their home.

The only drugs that police found in the house were 18 grams of marijuana and 1.5 grams of cocaine. Those are also the only drugs detected by the toxicology tests described in the autopsy reports: THC and a THC metabolite in Tuttle's blood and benzoylecgonine, a cocaine metabolite, in Nicholas' blood. Notably, the tests found no traces of heroin, fentanyl, or other opioids.

Although Police Chief Art Acevedo has said the affidavit for the search warrant was falsified, he continues to defend the investigation that led to the raid, citing a January 8 call from an unnamed woman who reported that her daughter was using drugs at the house and described Tuttle and Nicholas as armed and dangerous drug dealers. Acevedo also said neighbors had thanked police for raiding the couple's home, which he said was locally notorious as a "drug house" and a "problem location."

Those claims are inconsistent with the accounts of neighbors interviewed by Houston news outlets. They said that Tuttle and Nicholas, who had lived in the house for two decades, were perfectly nice people and that they had never noticed any suspicious activity at the house.

KTRK, the ABC station in Houston, reported in February that the woman who called police on January 8 was Nicholas' mother, who was concerned about her own daughter's drug use. But that report is inconsistent with Acevedo's account and with what Nicholas' mother, Jo Ann Nicholas, has told reporters. "I want her name cleared," the grieving 84-year-old woman said in a March 25 interview with KTRK.

Four officers, including Goines, were injured by gunfire during the raid, but it is not clear where those rounds came from. It seems implausible that Tuttle, even if he fired all six rounds from the revolver, was able to hit his targets four times in the chaotic circumstances of the raid. Acevedo initially responded indignantly to the suggestion that officers were hit by "friendly fire," but that question is part of the Houston Police Department's ongoing investigation. This morning I asked the HPD whether the issue has been resolved but have not heard back yet.

After I requested copies of the autopsy reports on April 1, Harris County Attorney Vince Ryan claimed the documents were not subject to disclosure under the Texas Public Information Act. Citing the law's exception for information that "would interfere with the detection, investigation, or prosecution of crime," Ryan sought an opinion from Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, who I gather disagreed.

Update, May 7: HPD spokesman Kese Smith said the department is not releasing any information on the "friendly fire" issue until it completes its internal affairs and criminal investigations of the operation. He said those investigations should be completed by mid-May, at which point the department will report its findings to the Harris County District Attorney's Office, which is conducting its own investigation. The FBI is also looking into potential civil rights violations.

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  1. The evidence that this was an unconstitutional use of force by the government, which violated the 4th Amendment, is continuing to pile up against the Houston Police.

    Every government official trying to brush this under the carpet knows that this will be a multi-million dollar payout to the estate of the dead citizens.

    1. A good many gun owning Texans know this was a massacre implemented by a bad cop who got away with it.

      1. One of the main reasons that I call bullshit on the dead residents shooting police before the police murdered them is that raids by HPD are still going on.

        It only takes a few raids where every SWAT member is shot or shot dead by the homeowners to give police serious concerns about busting doors down on minor crimes.

        1. …or to seek emergency powers from a frightened public.

          1. The police have tried that tactic on numerous murders of cops and the public didnt seem to react the same as a mass shooting of kids.

            As long as the resident is defending their home and only shooting cops, public sympathy is not guaranteed.

            1. And it doesn’t help when the president of the police union wipes his ass with the First Amendment in public.

    2. “No-knock” raids should NEVER be allowed. Period.
      I do not own a gun, but I do have a solid oak bokken by my bedroom door. If I were to hear someone trying to break in, the dogs would be going crazy, and I would come out expecting to bust some heads. And I supposedly have the freaking RIGHT to defend myself and my family and my property. So if it is a cop breaking in, without announcing who they are, and I came out, they get to change it into “he came at us with a weapon!” and use that as an excuse to execute me?

      That seems to be precisely what happened here. But as seems to be typical in these cases, the worst part is the blatant attempts to cover it up and make excuses for their grievous mistakes. Not only should they be charged with murder, but every officer up to and including Chief Avecedo should also be nailed with corruption and conspiracy charges.

  2. They Hit him 8 times. How many rounds were actually fired? 40? 50? More?

    1. Fortunately at least one of the dozens fire hit Gerald Goines the undercover cop who ordered the hit /raid going nothing more than an hysterical call from the woman’s 84 year old mother who was worried about her drug use (pot and cocaine) … If you google the address in Houston (7815 Harding St.) you will find a host of modest older but clean well kept lower middle class. Mostly Hispanic neighborhood … Goines who clearly bungled the raid got to retire with full benefits. There is no justice.

      1. The claim that it was the dead woman’s mother who called seems pretty dubious.

      2. Shat a shame it would be if someone were to call SWAT and report suspicious activity at Goines’ address. Has that prank kid been paroled yet?

    2. Police are notorious for being bad shots under pressure.

      I reference Leonard Peltier and the FBI shootout in 1975. Two FBI agents nearly 100 rounds from 4 weapons and only 1 suspect was killed via a sniper rifle.

      The suspects shot hundreds of rounds with 125 hitting the FBI vehicles.
      RESMURS Case (Reservation Murders)

      1. Ummm, what? 125 rounds hit the dead agents’ vehicles, but those agents only fired 5 rounds.

        1. No preview or edit button strikes again.

          You’re correct FBI agents fired 5 rounds. the suspect shot from a sniper rifle was from another case where I deleted *almost all the info.

          My plan was to not only show FBI agents missed completely but over 125 rounds were fired by suspects and only a few hit the agents. The FBI agents were evidently still alive when someone walked up to them and shot them at point blank range.

      2. It’s not bad aim it’s just really hard to hit someone with a little piece of lead. In Vietnam my dad had uncountable numbers of bullets fly past him including artillery shrapnel. Didn’t get a scratch.

        1. Its hard to hit a person when you shoot rifles and pistols by spraying and praying.

          Vietnam had horrible rifle target hit rates. Soldiers used a bunch of ammo to get a few kills. There were various reasons for this.

          Lee Harvey Oswald shot JFK, who was moving and Oswald was a good distance away.

  3. Chalk on a tire gets 4th amendment protections because chalk on a tire doesn’t really matter.

    This kind of stuff really matters and so there are no protections.

  4. If the affidavit for the search warrant was falsified then the search warrant is invalid and whoever did the falsification is guilty of manslaughter or negligent homicide or something similar under Texas law, right? That person knew the falsification could have led to an outcome like this. If no one is held accountable you can expect things like this to happen again and more often.

    1. Not sure it was falsified but the Officer in charge went on very dubious intel. For what reason unless he needed to boost his arrest/drug busts quota.

      1. The warrant affidavit included claims of a controlled drug buy that is now pretty conclusively known to have not happened at all.

  5. Can a citizen buy a bullet-proof vest for his dog?
    Is it against the law to fortify all entrances to your own home, and install grenade netting?
    (Asking for a friend of the Rev)

    1. ironically its illegal in California to have a bullet proof vest but you can buy a bullet proof back pack for you kid to take to school.

      1. And it’s illegal everywhere to have a bullet proof vest that works against rifles.

        1. No bullet proof “vest” will work against a decent rifle with a decent scope in the hands of a decent marksman.

          You could be wearing a breastplate made of 2 inch thick armor grade steel. It won’t protect you against a head shot.

          1. I prefer G Gordon Liddy’s version of the Mozambique Drill: Two to the chest, one to the crotch. Rip out the femoral arteries and you can’t get a tourniquet on before death.

        2. Its not illegal “everywhere” to have a ballistic vest that stops rifle rounds.

          A popular type are called “ballistic plates”.

          I would link Galls, Inc but Reason is fucked.

    2. What about trap doors in front of the entrances to your home?

      1. Booby traps are forbidden

        1. Lethal booby traps will get you a murder charge. Booby traps that cause injury without being lethal will get you assault charges. I’m not so sure traps that immobilize without injury would be illegal.

          1. At common law, the intended result of the booby trap must be proportional to the impending harm to the homeowner. Therefore, if you’re guarding against rogue cops storming into your house and chucking bullets all over the place, lethal booby traps seem pretty reasonable.

    3. Its not illegal to fortify your home.

      If you set explosives or hurt a fireman with a boobytrap trying to enter your home, you will answer for that because pussies keep undermining the 2A.

      Keep the government agents and all uninvited guests easily from getting on to your property and they make uninvited entry into your home lethal, so the only way they find out is after they entire SWAT team is wiped out.

      1. Furthermore, SWAT teams like ramming garage doors down on typically American homes and entering via the garage door into the home.

        Fortifying your home where obstacles are hidden from outside view will mitigate SWAT team’s element of surprise. A reinforced steel door between your garage and inside house that they cannot ram down will slow the SWAT team down.

  6. totes okay to murder inhabitants of problem locations.

  7. Citing the law’s exception for information that “would interfere with the detection, investigation, or prosecution of crime,”

    “Would”, not “might” seems to call for something more than speculation about the possibility, and the law refers to documents held by law enforcement – are autopsy reports not held by the Medical Examiner’s Office as well? At any rate, the simplest explanation for refusing to release the report publicly that jumps to mind is that the details would allow a suspect (or suspects) under investigation to tailor their testimony to fit the details. But if the report has not been released publicly, is it nevertheless available to the suspects brave and noble heroes herein maligned? I can’t see any reason offhand that making the report public is necessarily going to interfere with the investigation unless the cops in question are indeed under investigation and in the same way a mundane would be under investigation.

  8. This situation is the answer to the question, “why would anyone need a machine gun?”. If Tuttle and Nicholas had had a couple of M27s they might have had a chance—at least at evening the score.

    1. These cops easily kill residents who think that they are repelling robbers not SWAT teams.

      A determined homeowner could easily take a few SWAT members with him/her by hiding well and picking off the murderers before they kill you.

      Hint: Cops dont look up as they are clearing homes.

      1. True, in MOUT (military operations in urban terrain) training the instructors would “shoot” at us from the ceiling and it was hard as hell to see them.

      2. At least today there are investigations, instead of orders banning radio stations from playing Uranium Savages songs making fun of Houston’s sty-nest.

    2. I love how every time people try to question the efficacy of 2A, they talk in hypothetical terms as if innocent people have never been murdered by government agents before.

  9. And, again, thanks to Sully for staying on top of the follow-up to this story and not letting it fade away as so many police “investigations” of police malfeasance seem to tend to do.

  10. Waste of life, bullets, and time. Huston police really needs to chill. Maybe offer them some drugs?

    1. 300 grains of Trepanizine sounds about right.

  11. Acevedo initially responded indignantly to the suggestion that officers were hit by “friendly fire,” but that question is part of the Houston Police Department’s ongoing investigation.

    Acevedo, like most law enforcement spox, often forgets to pretend that their internal investigations are ongoing and that they haven’t already drawn conclusions.

    1. Acevedo is a Dem stooge with not much going on between the ears.

  12. If you shoot my dog, you’d better run, because I’m going to revert to my training and treat you as if killing you would reverse time itself!

    Or, better yet, don’t kill my dog.

    1. Yes sir.. kill any of my dogs better shoot me quick or tell your significant other you won’t be home for diner.

  13. Sullum is working like Chicago Tribune reporters during Constitutional Prohibition. Once the GOP’s Bert Hoover unleashed the hounds in 1929, dry killer incidents went through the roof. The DeKings, Henry Virkula, William Thurston, E.F. Downey, agent Patterson, Jeff Harris, the I’m Alone… Even before Hoover, prohibition murders had claimed some 800 to 1200 victims. Senator Millard Tydings of Maryland published a list of 51 dry killings completely elided from official records. Good journalism!

  14. In some areas of Houston obviously it is advisable.

  15. Good shootin’ Tex.
    Maybe next time you’ll actually shoot someone who is threatening your life, your partner’s life or some pain in the ass innocent bystander’s life, or am I asking for the impossible here?

  16. Police Chief Assinvader needs to lose his goddam job immediately.

  17. Regina was probably going for the job when they shot her. They left her when they pulled out even though she may have still been alive. Supposedly Tuttle was crying for help for a time. They shot him in the head through a window before they went back in. No .357 was found btw.

    1. Dog not job. Stupid still no edit function crap Reason.

  18. Any actual evidence there was even a .357 on the scene? You’d think that if there was one, and it had been fired, the COP would be waving it around to show how dangerous the raid was for his officers.

    1. Of course, they could do that even if there wasn’t one found on the scene. Perhaps they are actually feeling a bit chastened.

  19. […] [WB1] Reason and KPRC-2 News both updated their audiences on the status of HPD’s 7815 Harding Street Massacre this week. According to HPD Chief Art Acevedo, the department will be handing over the findings of its internal investigation to the Harris County District Attorney’s Office by 15 May (Wednesday). […]

  20. […] According to the cops who served the warrant, which was based on a “controlled buy” of heroin that apparently never happened and authorized a search that found no evidence of drug dealing, Tuttle began shooting at them with a .357 Magnum revolver immediately after the first officer through the door used a shotgun to kill a dog that confronted him as he entered the house. They say the officer with the shotgun collapsed on a couch after a round from Tuttle’s gun struck him, at which point Nicholas moved to disarm him, prompting the cops to shoot her twice. Tuttle continued firing, we are told, until he died in a hail of bullets that struck him at least eight times. […]

  21. […] According to the cops who served the warrant, which was based on a “controlled buy” of heroin that apparently never happened and authorized a search that found no evidence of drug dealing, Tuttle began shooting at them with a .357 Magnum revolver immediately after the first officer through the door used a shotgun to kill a dog that confronted him as he entered the house. They say the officer with the shotgun collapsed on a couch after a round from Tuttle’s gun struck him, at which point Nicholas moved to disarm him, prompting the cops to shoot her twice. Tuttle continued firing, we are told, until he died in a hail of bullets that struck him at least eight times. […]

  22. […] According to the cops who served the warrant, which was based on a “controlled buy” of heroin that apparently never happened and authorized a search that found no evidence of drug dealing, Tuttle began shooting at them with a .357 Magnum revolver immediately after the first officer through the door used a shotgun to kill a dog that confronted him as he entered the house. They say the officer with the shotgun collapsed on a couch after a round from Tuttle’s gun struck him, at which point Nicholas moved to disarm him, prompting the cops to shoot her twice. Tuttle continued firing, we are told, until he died in a hail of bullets that struck him at least eight times. […]

  23. […] May 3, the Harris County Institute of Forensic Sciences sent me the autopsy reports for Tuttle and Nicholas. That was a month after I had requested the reports, and I was a bit […]

  24. […] May 3, the Harris County Institute of Forensic Sciences sent me the autopsy reports for Tuttle and Nicholas. That was a month after I had requested the reports, and I was a bit […]

  25. […] May 3, the Harris County Institute of Forensic Sciences sent me the autopsy reports for Tuttle and Nicholas. That was a month after I had requested the reports, and I was a bit […]

  26. […] May 3, the Harris County Institute of Forensic Sciences sent me the autopsy reports for Tuttle and Nicholas. That was a month after I had requested the reports, and I was a bit […]

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