Police Abuse

Forensic Experts Find 'No Evidence' That Houston Narcs Who Killed Dennis Tuttle and Rhogena Nicholas Encountered Gunfire As They Entered the House

The physical evidence at the scene seems inconsistent with the story told by the officers who conducted the no-knock drug raid.


The Houston narcotics officers who invaded a middle-aged couple's home on January 28, serving a no-knock drug warrant based on a fraudulent affidavit, claimed they killed Dennis Tuttle and Rhogena Nicholas in self-defense. A recent forensic inspection of the house, commissioned by the couple's relatives, casts doubt on that account and reinforces the suspicion that at least some of the four officers who suffered bullet wounds were shot by their colleagues.

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.

Even taking this account at face value, the officers started the gunfight by breaking into the house without warning and shooting the dog, a reckless entry that invited confusion. It is not clear that Tuttle knew the armed intruders, who were not wearing uniforms and did not announce themselves before storming into the house, were police officers. Nor is there any body camera footage of the raid that might shed light on that question.

But there is physical evidence at the house, which seems inconsistent with the story told by the narcotics officers. Houston Chronicle reporters Keri Blakinger and St. John Barned-Smith say a forensics team that the Tuttle and Nicholas families hired, headed by Mike Maloney, a retired supervisory special agent with the Naval Criminal Investigative Service, "found no indication that any of the guns Tuttle owned were fired toward the front of the house at incoming police."

While Maloney has not completed his analysis yet, "the initial bullet trajectories appear to be somewhat contradictory," Chuck Bourque, an attorney representing Nicholas' family, told the Chronicle. "We see no evidence that anybody inside the house was firing toward the door."

Blakinger and Barned-Smith report that "some of the bullet holes outside the house appeared at least a foot from the door." That suggests one or more of the officers who fired at Tuttle and Nicholas did so blindly. "You can't see into the house from there," Mike Doyle, another attorney hired by Nicholas' relatives, told the Chronicle. "You're firing into the house through a wall."

Houston Police Department spokesman Kese Smith told me he can't answer any questions about the ballistic evidence, or even explain why the revolver that Tuttle allegedly used was not listed on the search warrant inventory, until after HPD has completed its criminal and internal affairs investigations of the raid, which is also being investigated by the FBI and the Harris County District Attorney's Office. But Maloney's team found that police left behind a lot of potentially relevant evidence, including two teeth, a men's shirt with bullet holes and an evidence tag, a shotgun shell casing, and about a dozen .223- and .45-caliber bullets in the walls and floor, which apparently were fired by police.

Sam Walker, a criminal justice professor at the University of Nebraska at Omaha, told the Chronicle the HPD's haphazard evidence collection raises questions about its investigative practices. "How many people have been convicted over the years as a result of sloppy investigations which failed to collect evidence that was there that would have exonerated the suspect?" he wondered. "If they do it in this kind of a homicide case, what do they do in other kinds of investigations?"

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  1. Those stupid cops fucking shot their fellow cops!

    1. No humans involved.

      1. Besides the dead couple to police murdered?

        1. I was referring to the cops shooting other cops. You know, what LC1789 was talking about.

    2. We don’t need no stinking badges, or warrants, or uniforms, or bodycams.

  2. …the HPD’s haphazard evidence collection raises questions about its investigative practices. “How many people have been convicted over the years as a result of sloppy investigations which failed to collect evidence that was there that would have exonerated the suspect?”

    Maybe they only do shoddy work when criminals their evidence would put away wear badges.

    1. I’m sure they treated it like a drug case that would never go to trial and not a double murder case. On purpose, of course.

  3. Damn.
    You mean the cops lied to get the warrant, served it in plain clothes(?!), and then lied about what happened?
    I can hardly believe it.
    Well, OK, I do believe it. I just can’t believe they were that stupid and still tried to brass it out. At least they had the sense to not use active body cameras.

    1. They know damn good and well that the worst that might happen is a vacation with pay while this goes through legal then perhaps a retirement. Don’t forget the body cam footage of the cops in mesa Arizona killing the Walmart pest control husband and father of two young girls. In Cold Blood, no question. On body cam, clear as if it was a movie. And the shooter got off and the sargent who was goading the process to the point another copy reviewing the footage said he was the guilty one just got to retire. The only hope I have is that the pictures of the two fatherless young girls HAUNTS them till they die.

      1. It won’t…one of the hallmarks of sociopaths is no conscience.

  4. Is there *anything* the cops did “right” in this clusterfuck? Let the lawsuits begin.

    1. Is there *anything* the cops did “right” in this clusterfuck?

      Yes, they killed the only people who could talk.

      1. Well, the officer who shot the dog, could talk, when he finds out he was actually shot in the back by another officer, but he probably won’t.

  5. I’d be willing to bet that the cop who shot the dog, if he was actually shot at all, was hit by friendly fire from the idiots shooting blindly through the front wall of the house.

    1. One wonders if the cops took the victim’s gun and started shooting with it, and hit the raiding party.

      1. I saw Training Day so I know how cleaning up the no-knock raid looks.

  6. Starting to sound like they all conspired to murder, realized how badly they just fucked up, and failed at covering their tracks.

  7. We see some states making reforms regarding asset forfeiture, what we need now is for states to make laws where the chief of police (or some supervisory police officer) can be held criminally liable for screw ups like this.

    1. Qualified immunity is the fundamental problem. Cops can get away with murder and they know it. I think only SCOTUS can fix that.

      1. At least firing. Even if they’re not financially liable, get them off the force when they screw up.

      2. Hell the President of the union threatened the public to keep quiet or else. What kind of third world police force do we have here in Houston?

      3. Qualified immunity will have to be removed by constitutional amendment repealing Article … uh, which Article of the constitution grants qualified immunity? I keep forgetting.

        1. It’s the one next to the penumbras, just to the right of the emanations…

          1. Somehow, I always read it as “qualified imummity” and imagined them getting wrapped up in long cotton bandages. Which might actually be better.

        2. That’s what they are trying to avoid.

          If people begin to understand that immunity extends to the consequences of willful criminal actions then the whole thing might get pulled down.

        3. QI was created out of nothing by SCOTUS out of fear that cops would be too afraid of liability under a statute passed by congress creating a cause of action for individuals whose rights are violated by government actors. They did so, supposedly not on a constitutional basis, but as statutory interpretation, by reading prior common law immunity for government actors into the statute.

          No, if Congress wanted to, they could eliminate QI by statute, constitutional amendment not needed.

      4. Qualified Immunity and the Absolute Immunity judges and prosecutors enjoy only apply to civil lawsuits. E.g., the corrupt judge that sentenced kids to overly long terms in private prisons/rehab facilities that paid a kickback was prosecuted and sent to jail, but could not be sued to pay the kids for what he did to them.

        These cops could be prosecuted for perjury on the warrant application, breaking and entering, assault with a deadly weapon, animal cruelty, murder, felony murder, and violation of civil rights. There might also be obstruction of justice, if the sloppy investigation can be proved to be deliberate. But who is going to prosecute them? The chumminess between cops and prosecutors is a bigger problem than Qualified Immunity when it comes to keeping cops in line.

        As for QI, the first and easiest reform is to make it clear that cops should already know that breaking the law is wrong, so they are not protected if any part of their conduct was illegal. And the standard for getting a civil suit to trial on that grounds should be the same as for an indictment.

  8. Maybe its just having been in the military that’s spoiled me, but if you’re going to form a criminal gang from your co-workers, wouldn’t you take some time to practice your home invasions? Set up a training area, do some practice room clearing, debrief, lessons-learned and all that?

    ‘Hey, let’s just rip these random people off’ is what a couple methheads do in the middle of a 3 day bender.

  9. Thanks again for the update Jacob. As this thing continues to unravel I am becoming cautiously hopeful that at least one of these thug cops ends up in prison.

    1. Gerald Goines lead detective most likely will face serious charges as he was caught lying on the pretense of the raid. It is out there now and he can’t escape it. Unfortunately he may be the only one going down. Art has circled the wagons and HPD will suffer little for the act of murder.

      1. At this point I suspect the main focus of the HPD is figuring out how to keep Goines from taking others with him in exchange for a plea.

  10. Maybe if those bitter clingers hadn’t gone to Ouachita Baptist, they wouldn’t have needed replacing. Carr on, oops, this is the wrong account I’m logged into

  11. Dennis Tuttle

    I wonder if the forensic investigation will reveal Mr. Tuttle’s hat size.

  12. Sam Walker, a criminal justice professor at the University of Nebraska at Omaha, told the Chronicle the HPD’s haphazard evidence collection raises questions about its investigative practices.

    An isolated incident, one bad apple, procedures were followed. Why are you supporting the War on Cops?

    1. Has anyone ever pointed out to the police that the saying is “One bad apple spoils the barrel?” If they admit there is a “bad apple” in their department, that suggests the entire department is spoiled to some degree. Since the leadership and the union invariably protect their “bad apples” as long as it’s politically feasible, they intentionally allow the rot to spread further.

      1. The whole event was predicated upon a criminal act. The ‘best’ argument thatthe people involved have is some combination of ignorance and/or ‘following orders.’

        Which, if it involved anyone else, would not fly very far in court.

        That leaves sovereign immunity, and “oops, we cannot be held responsible for murder” is the fart in the pew that nobody in Houston wants to own.

    2. Maybe your being sarcastic but if the procedures are invade a house in plain clothes with no knocking and immediately shoot any dog found then someone needs to figure out that this is guaranteed to frighten the occupants into defending themselves. So the policy is simply a setup to allow killing of the victims. Check who kills more, cops killing “targets” or cops being killed. If there is a war on cops it’s a war of self defense from the citizens. I’m 68 and they still scare the s*&# out of me, very different from at any other time in my life.

  13. Criminal gang, those Houston pigs.

  14. This is a predictable outcome for a no-knock raid. People die, sometimes cops die. Police leadership should abandon armed home invasions.

    1. Yep, no reason they can’t put someone under surveillance and wait until they leave the house and then arrest them. The other solution is to always announce that the police are there and you need to come out with your hands up and that they are serving a warrant.

  15. Good job, Sullum, keep reporting on this.
    Gets me more pissed off and animated about it the more I read.

  16. First cop in see’s dog, shoots it, other cops hear a shot so go all full auto and hose down the house, the suspects and themselves?

    Makes more sense than anything the popo have put forward.

    1. Cops prefer to “soften up a room” before going in.

  17. *sharpens the blades in the woodchipper*

  18. it pisses me off that this isn’t getting more attention in the general media.

    1. The victims were white or cops, so the woke media’s out. The perpetrators were cops, so Fox isn’t gonna bother. Who else is going to report on it?

    2. It pisses me off white people aren’t burning down the city.

  19. The only problem with the findings is that they are at least consistent with the police version that Tuttle was actually quite successful at hitting his targets.

    Not that, at this point, I believe a word any one of them says.

    Murders charges look more and more appropriate every day.

  20. Q: Why no knock?
    Q: Why no announcement?
    Q: Why no bodycam?
    Q: Why no uniforms?

    A. They were there to shoot someone.

  21. To paraphrase James Madison: To enter a home without a proper warrant IS tyranny.
    A warrant based on no evidence or somebody’s tip is not proper in any event. Without warrant at all someone must be in danger and police enter to save that person. I doubt that ever happened anywhere and there must be enough evidence to convict or at least charge a suspect and suspect must be proven to be armed and dangerous for a warrant to be issued.
    The fact that no-knock exists and results in disasters and loss of life is enough to stop the practice NOW. Loss of life is not nor ever should be the intent of police serving a warrant. Police also know that people do leave their houses often and that would be the time to serve them.
    What are the odds that as in every situation such as this police claim to never have fired the first shot?
    To be secure in your home, a protected Right no longer. Tyranny exists and it is killing people and animals. Tyranny exists and it is sanctioned by the courts that will rule on it but they are a part of the tyranny. The Supreme Court cannot rule on it as they are political appointees. Only the people can decide what is the remedy but this is no longer the home of the brave. Everyone lives in fear and that is exactly what the goal was.

  22. Houston police investigation into botched drug raid completed, turned over to prosecutors


  23. […] this fiasco, which he praises himself for investigating, and it’s in his interest to prevent further revelations until he is ready to frame the story in a way that minimizes embarrassment for him and the […]

  24. […] this fiasco, which he praises himself for investigating, and it’s in his interest to prevent further revelations until he is ready to frame the story in a way that minimizes embarrassment for him and the […]

  25. Nor is there any body camera footage of the raid that might shed light on that question.

    The police would not want me on a jury on a civil case against them in this case. In this day and age, there is no excuse for not having bodycams on every officer in this situation. Bodycams are well established technology and not that expensive and this police department isn’t some small rural town that has no budget. As well, this was a planned raid involving multiple officers — they had time to gear up so they had time to make sure their bodycams were on and working. This wasn’t a spur of the moment encounter between an officer and some nut case and the officer didn’t have time to turn on her bodycam before defending herself.

    When an entity attempts to prevent the truth from being discovered by failing to engage in reasonable data collection processes, apparently as a matter of policy, that tends to make me very skeptical of any claims they later make.

  26. …and the cops wonder why they can’t get citizens to talk to them.

  27. Waitwaitwait…can’t we at least SAY they were wearing blackface to fit into the “cops shootin’ black people up in heah!” narrative?

    Also..”a forensics team that the Tuttle and Nicholas families hired, headed by Mike Maloney, a retired supervisory special agent with the Naval Criminal Investigative Service” NCIS? Does he then drive off in a convertible with a hot redhead? Inquiring minds want to know.

  28. Does anyone understand how, the fact that we are even talking about this, means that none of us deserves to live? If this wasn’t a declaration of war by cops against civilians then I don’t know what is.

  29. […] AFTER they completed their crime scene investigation. The latest developments were noted by Reason and the Washington […]

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