War on Drugs

Federal Indictment Says Deadly Houston Drug Raid Was Based on Lies From Start to Finish

The Justice Department says Dennis Tuttle and Rhogena Nicholas were killed in an operation based on a fraudulent warrant triggered by a false report to police.


Today the Justice Department announced that three people have been indicted on federal charges because of their roles in a fraudulent no-knock drug raid that killed a middle-aged Houston couple on January 28. The indictment alleges not only that Gerald Goines, the narcotics officer who spearheaded the operation, lied in his search warrant affidavit, but that Patricia Ann Garcia, whose 911 calls prompted Goines' investigation, lied when she implicated Dennis Tuttle and Rhogena Nicholas in drug dealing.

The upshot is that the basis for the raid was a lie from start to finish. That realization contradicts Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo's insistence that there were sound reasons, apart from Goines' prevarications, to think Tuttle and Nicholas were selling heroin.

Goines, who already faced state murder charges in connection with the raid that killed Tuttle and Nicholas, has been charged with violating their Fourth Amendment rights under color of law. The Justice Department says "Goines faces up to life in prison" if convicted of those charges, although the statute also allows the death penalty for violations with lethal consequences.

Goines, who retired in March after 34 years with the Houston Police Department, claimed in his affidavit that a confidential informant had purchased heroin from a middle-aged "white male, whose name is unknown," at the house on Harding Street that Tuttle and Nicholas shared. But the raid, which was executed the day after that purported sale, discovered no heroin and no evidence of drug dealing. Soon afterward Houston police investigators concluded that the confidential informant described by Goines did not exist. Goines then changed his story, claiming he had bought the heroin himself. According to the federal indictment, that was also a lie.

The Justice Department says Goines "made numerous materially false statements in the state search warrant" and afterward repeatedly lied about the circumstances of the raid. In addition to the civil rights charges, Goines is accused of falsifying records and obstructing an official proceeding.

The indictment also charges Steven Bryant, a Houston narcotics officer who helped back up Goines' story, with obstructing justice by falsifying records. Bryant, who supposedly identified the "brown powder substance" that the nonexistent informant never bought as black-tar heroin, already faced a state charge of tampering with a governmental record. The federal charge carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison.

The biggest revelation in the indictment is that the January 8 report about drug activity at the Harding Street house was completely false. Yet Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo has repeatedly cited that report as evidence that his department was right to investigate Tuttle and Nicholas.

According to Acevedo, a woman called police on January 8 to complain that her daughter was "doing heroin" inside the house. At a press conference three days after the raid, Acevedo described the call this way: "The caller wanted to remain anonymous but said that her daughter was inside the residence 'doing drugs, and they have a lot of guns in the residence.' She stated there was also a female in the house." The woman said she had looked through a window, and she saw that "her daughter was in the house, and there were guns and heroin."

When two patrol officers arrived in response to that call, the woman was nowhere to be found. According to Acevedo, they questioned a passer-by and afterward heard her say into her cellphone, "Hey, the police are at the dope house." When the officers called the woman who had made the report, Acevedo said, "She stated she did not want to give any information because they were drug dealers and they would kill her. She wanted the officers to go into the house and get her daughter." The officers explained that they had no authority to enter the house.

The federal indictment says the caller, which it identifies as Garcia, made all of that up. Garcia, who lived across the street from Tuttle and Nicholas, is charged with "convey[ing] false information by making several fake 911 calls," an offense punishable by up to five years in prison.

Acevedo said Garcia's calls showed there was a legitimate basis for the investigation that led to the Harding Street raid. He called the home a "problem location" and a locally notorious "drug house." He even claimed that people who lived nearby had thanked police for raiding the house. Yet neighbors interviewed by local news outlets described Tuttle and Nicholas, who had lived on Harding Street for two decades, as perfectly nice and said they had never seen any signs of criminal activity.

"You and other members of your department have made factually incorrect, but globally disseminated, statements about Rhogena Nicholas and her husband, Dennis Tuttle, from the date of their deaths and going forward," an attorney for Nicholas' family complained in a letter to Acevedo last March. "These statements have not been publicly corrected or retracted to date."

Even after Goines' lies were revealed, Acevedo insisted that police "had probable cause to be there," apparently relying on Garcia's report. But even if that report had been accurate, it did not provide probable cause for a search, and neither did Goines' fictitious affidavit. Goines, who supposedly had been investigating Tuttle and Nicholas for two weeks, cited no suspicious activity consistent with drug dealing. His investigation was so cursory that he apparently did not even bother to look up the names of the home's owners.

"I still think they're heroes," Acevedo said of the officers who killed Tuttle and Nicholas after breaking into their home without warning based on a fraudulent search warrant stemming from a report the Justice Department says was not true. If the lack of oversight that allowed this disastrous operation to unfold were not reason enough to demand Acevedo's resignation, his dogged defense of the investigation and his casual defamation of Tuttle and Nicholas would be.

Update: At a press conference today, Acevedo continued to imply there was probable cause for the search, even though it was not identified in the warrant and no such evidence has been publicly revealed so far. "I stand by [saying] we had a reason to be in that house," he said. "We had a reason to be in that house, and probable cause or suspicion to be in that house. There's a reason we were there, and that will all come out in due time." Note that Acevedo has backtracked without admitting it, shifting from "probable cause" to "suspicion," which does not legally justify searching a home even when the suspicion is reasonable.

At the same time, Acevedo seemed to acknowledge that police did not have probable cause for the search. "But for that call," he said, "we wouldn't be standing here today, and so all of that will go into play, in terms of accountability, levels of accountability, what people are responsible for." If the call itself did not provide probable cause, which it did not, and the warrant was falsified, which it was, what additional piece of evidence does Acevedo have in mind that gave police "a reason to be in that house"?

NEXT: Democrats Shift From Demonizing Cannabis to Demonizing Nicotine

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.

  1. Good! Even if it doesn't result in them getting the time they deserve, this will heighten visibility for this stuff and maybe make these thugs think twice.

    1. That's my thinking too, that maybe this will be remembered as some sort of turning point, not just proof that police are corrupt lying sons-a-bitches, but that qualified immunity is a joke, and that the War on (Some) Drug Users is a criminally corrupt mob racket. I don't expect instantaneous changes, but maybe it will be the case that wakes up the public and gives criminal defense lawyers a bit more credibility when they bring up corrupt police.

    2. If the chief things it's ok to murder Houston citizens and make excuses, maybe somebody will return the favor to him.????

    3. "...visibility for this stuff and maybe make these thugs think twice."

      Yeah, sure. Just like it dissuades badge-less criminals without the benefit of qualified immunity, presumed credibility and paid accomplices.

  2. I am sure massive changes to police departments and courts around the USA relating to probable cause, informants, drug raids, and search warrants will be forthcoming.

    1. You forgot your [sarcasm] [/sarcasm] tags.

  3. If the lack of oversight that allowed this disastrous operation to unfold were not reason enough to demand Acevedo's resignation, his dogged defense of the investigation and his casual defamation of Tuttle and Nicholas would be.

    So, when will he resign?

    1. Never. Hopefully he'll be fired (I'm assuming the chief is a political appointee, and not under FOP protection).

      1. Glad we got this pos out of Austin. Thanks, Houston.

        1. Austinite here. Amen. Acevedo has proven himself to be a thug defending murderers.

          And he is in favor of gun bans too. More opportunities to murder citizens during reckless raids!

      2. Not before the Houston mayoral runoff election and not if Mayor Turner wins. It will be interesting to see if his opponent even brings it up. Personally, I think it's too much of a political hot potato and no one will even mention it.

  4. So you're saying this was all some crazy lady's fault for calling the cops and lying to them and the cops are completely blameless? I'm glad that's all been cleared up and I'm sure Acevedo is willing to accept your apology now for suggesting that his brave officers were in any way responsible for this tragic occurrence.

    1. That's what bothered me about this. Just blame the 911 caller who lied. However, anyone with a half functional brain (and since we're talking about police here, there probably weren't any present) could have easily done some digging around and figured this lady was full of shit. But why let that get in the way of state sanctioned home invasion?

      1. There's got to be something more to this. People call 911 all the time with false reports of suspicious activity but police don't knock down the door and murder people for it.

        1. It does seem like something is missing from the story.

          1. I notice that they stopped referring to the fact that Dennis was a veteran. Originally the sheriff lied, and said that Dennis had shot 2 of the entry team. Upon forensic evidence, and a private investigator's study of the crime scene, it was determined that the outside team, and the inside team had a fire-fight with one another, while the couple was executed sitting in their own living room. I want to ignore it, but something in me says this might have been a hit/assassination.

            1. " I want to ignore it, but something in me says this might have been a hit/assassination."

              Agreed. The question is what was the motivation?

              1. Some of the speculation is this was a Serpico sytle hit on one or more police officers.

            2. According to the private investigators, and the straight-up implausibility of the original police report, it would appear that the entire police entry team is guilty of lying about the raid, and staging a cover-up. It really burns my britches that as of yet, the only fall guys are the two cops that staged the warrant details. What about the thugs that burst into the house, then lied about how the raid went down to save face?

          2. What's missing is the internal pressure on Goines to produce some results to improve his metrics.

    2. Yeah, that pisses me off. Instead of doing anything to clean up the department as a whole, since it's clear there's a pattern of shitty behavior, they just tacked on extra charges to the officers already facing murder charges, and then charged the person who made the initial 911 call.

      They didn't sanction the judge who approved the fake warrant or the police chief who apparently thought no-knock raids were valid tools of law enforcement. They didn't drop charges against whichever officer decided it was okay to shoot the dog as soon as they breached the door.

      1. Yes, the judge is as guilty as anyone else involved

      2. First shots fired at Ruby Ridge and Waco were at the targeted people's dogs, prompting return fire which became the excuse to kill'em all and let God sort it out.

    3. He did still also make up the heroin buy and other stuff. Hard to lay it all on the crazy lady.

      1. Lets' start with that....where is the heroin now?

  5. " "I still think they're heroes," Acevedo said of the officers who killed Tuttle and Nicholas after breaking into their home without warning based on a fraudulent search warrant stemming from a false report."

    So I guess this fucking guy is going down with the ship? His department decided to play army man based on demonstrably false information, and then murdered two innocent people. And yet somehow the murderers are heroes?

    The Thin Blue Line is a hell of a drug. I've never seen a profession blindly defend even the absolute worst among their ranks quite like police do. This is also why I'm not optimistic about police ever changing their terrible behavior...

    1. I think this guy's 1 step removed from the former sheriff of Parkland, FL.

    2. "So I guess this fucking guy is going down with the ship?"

      His type attack their critics.

      Defeated Imperial Japanese Naval officers, especially those who had made serious blunders, would go down with their ship, but they had a code of honor.

    3. I got in an argument with a cop about this case.
      He was initially dismissive, but once he looked into he admitted it looked very fishy and the police actions were inexcusable

      1. Glad he didn’t use lethal force on you for furtive words.

        1. I wonder how Nardz's dog is doing these days...

    4. They murdered two innocent people, and also shot their fellow cops due to their own incompetence.

    5. While I agree with your statements about the "Thin Blue Line" the real solution is getting rid of victimless crime laws, including drug laws. Then the police will only be protecting people from criminals who harm others, rather than preying on drug users and harming them more than the drugs harm them.

      When people quit looking at the police as threats to their liberty even when they don't harm others or their property, they'll have a lot more respect for them. We are supposedly a country of the people, by the people and for the people, as opposed to a country for the people in government.

  6. I'm glad they also got that "anonymous" informant who got two people killed. She swatted a couple to death, and five years is far too lenient for her.

    1. I hope she has information that will shed light on this whole mess and turns state's evidence. But hope ain't a plan.

  7. Waiting for Acevedo to be indicted as well.

    1. that would be nice. Not gonna hold my breath or anything though

      1. I think we've seen the extent of these indictments. The Feds got what they came for. No sense looking deeper into the pattern of illegal behavior by the cops, it's all because some woman made false statements. Nothing to see here.

    2. If it hasn't happend already it never will. Every town he goes to, ends up in the next for shady police conduct. He creates that culture wherever he goes.

    3. Why can't I upvote this?

  8. Houston is in the middle of a contested mayoral race so castigating the police is not on the agenda for the incumbent, Mayor Turner. His opponent is a law and order, Trump supporter type with few inclinations to stir up the police before or after the election.

    When the runoff is over with Turner likely to be the winner, maybe (just maybe) he will take action based on this well timed report to fire Acevedo. Turner is term limited and can't run again, so he has an opportunity to act without re-election getting in the way. I'm not hopeful though.

  9. So, when are they gonna start investigating Goine's team, you know, the team of plainclothes officers that were the ones who actually went inside? Cause there's no way those guys weren't aware that this jackass was crooked.

    On a side note, sounds to me that once the lawsuit over the wrongful death is finished, they can start another one for libel and slander, seeing as how the entire story was based on a lie, and the cops still aren't backing down from their provably false story

    1. don't forget, we have that phone audio of them firing shots about half an hour after everything settled down, trying to cover up their mistake. That isn't a case of "one guy lying about evidence", every cop on the scene had to be aware of what was going on. Which means they were all complicit.

      1. This is exactly why I believe there are no good cops. There are monsters, and there are those that enable the monsters by either directing helping them or at least looking the other way.

        Every department in the country has some shitbag going around doing stuff like this, and not a single one of them has cops willing to arrest their coworkers for breaking the law. All cops are bastards.

        1. it's because of the consequences if one snitches. Cause then you're in an environment where everyone knows you can't be trusted (that shit gets around no matter what), and either you get pushed out by the other cops, or they don't show up to help you the next time you're in a dangerous situation and need back up.

          Remember Christopher Dorner? His rampage looks a lot different if you approach it from the angle that what he said was true. He did try to do the right thing and was fired for it, with his reputation ruined. It's pretty ironic that LAPD proved he was right about their use of force during the manhunt for him, with 3 civilians being shot by cops because of mistaken identity.

          1. It would be the same thing, but opposite, if there were even a few good cops. Bad cops would know they'd be outed, and the get-along cops would not want the opprobrium that goes with it, and all the non-bad cops would want the bad ones outed and arrested.

            If just one cop in ten were willing to out the bad ones, if only one in a hundred were willing to arrest bad cops, all this crap would stop. That's why I agree there are no good cops.

          2. If they were so wanting to execute him at all costs (including shooting the hell out of innocent people), you have to wonder what they were really afraid he would reveal....

        2. I disagree, I think most cops try to do the right thing. I watched the video of two cops drag a woman out of a burning car; that took balls, or ovaries, since one of them was female.

          The system creates incentives for actions like this one in Houston. Come down with terminations and indictments, and eventually this behavior will stop, if for no other reason all the bad cops are facing prison time,

          1. Yeah did you see how he causally strolls over to see if there are any victims? What was that?

          2. I used to believe that too. Then I had to deal with the Houston Police and learned they are all crooked even if it means they are just the ones covering up for others.

  10. Patricia Ann Garcia

    So basically all this was started by some crazy cat lady with delusions?

    1. Does anyone know why she did it? Mental illness, or a grudge? Also why aren't they charging this lady with murder? like the swatter case. The cops are definitely culpable for their actions, but she at the least was an accessory.

      1. no idea, but others have theorized on here some sort of stupid argument with a neighbor that got out of control, similar to what happened with Rand Paul.

    2. She's likely the only one to do jail time.

      1. Damnit Fist, you just spiked my blood pressure with that comment. Because it sucks, and probably true.

    3. Do not taint cats with such an association.

  11. So there is obstruction? All that is missing is the tie to Trump.

    Lesson to learn; anonymous complaints should NEVER be used as a basis for any government action of any kind. Real live first person testimony of a named individual, nothing less.

  12. What no obsession from Reason about Goines not being the one who "pulled the trigger?"

    Although, personally I have no problem with him bearing the full responsibility for these needless and unlawful deaths. My real question is what about the other officers involved in the raid? Do they get away with the Nuremberg defense?

    1. They were there while the crime scene was being tampered with, there's no way they couldn't have known what was going on. Send them all to the pen

    2. What about the judge who signed off on this no-knock warrant? Are judges supposed to be rubber stamps for law enforcement to do whatever they want?

      1. good point. Make this clusterfuck into an example

      2. I am conflicted on that. A judge can't perform an in depth review of every warrant request, but any claim by a cop that a C.I. saw something (which will rarely have to be proven unless someone dies with no evidence as in this case) is a de facto end run around the 4th amendment. Of course the first problem is the no knock warrants themselves instead of a normal search warrant.

        1. If a judge signs a bad warrant, like this one, their ass needs to be on the line.
          If there's no accountability for the judge, the warrant requirement is simply going through the motions.
          The purpose of the procedure should not be the procedure itself - otherwise, it's just ritual.

          1. Plus, it's not like a standard search warrant. You're going even farther when you're allowing police to breach a residence without announcing themselves. The legal standard should be more strict.

            1. We had a standard that worked just fine for decades. Then 9/11 happened, and every cop wants to be Jack Bauer. Add to that, our government is more than happy to arm them to the teeth, and turn them lose on us to live out their fantasies.

  13. So what was it really about? Someone just wanted to see somebody, anybody, die?

    1. Goines is a violence junkie and loves a good shootout. So, yeah.

    2. I would be willing to bet it was something that sad, and spiteful.

    3. Hammers in search of nails.

      When you cannot find them, you start to make them.

  14. Police don't kill people, false 911 calls kill people.

  15. This story is all kinds f'd up.

    Incidences like this should and could lead to culpability and reform.

    As long as BLM doesn't mess things up with their antics.

    1. Speaking of BLM, I was wondering why this story wasn't gardening more outrage....and then I saw the victims were white.

      Not enough juice in that.

  16. Ann Nicholas were at minimum gun owners and therefore deserving of death. As report after report repeated, a search of the house showed Dennis Wayne Tuttle had stored away:
    _ a 12-gauge Remington Model 1100 semi-automatic shotgun
    _ a 20-gauge shotgun Beretta ALS semi-automatic shotgun
    _ a .22 LR Winchester Model 190 semi-automatic rifle
    _ a 7mm Remington Magnum Remington Model 700 bolt-action rifle
    Lord knows how many school shootings Houston has been spared by taking three semi-automatic long guns and a long-range sniper rifle off the streets, even if the 911 caller Garcia and Officers Bryant and Goines had to lie to do it. Even though these guns were not used in the ambush of Houston's noble jack booted thugs, Tuttle owned them. The guns have been listed repeatedly in the past months by media and others as justification for killing the Tuttles and their cop-hating dog too.

    1. As the press and others repeatedly pointed out, Dennis Wayne Tuttle and Rhogena Ann Nicholas ...

  17. Acevedo will once again skate to the next town and will once again recreate the culture he likes to suround himself with, and these events will repeat. Austin was better after his departure and Houston will be too (one hopes). I have grave concerns about the unfortunate town where he will be next employed.

  18. Didn't five cops get wounded in this raid? Did they ever determine if it was all (or at least some) from friendly fire? That sure wouldn't be surprising.

    1. I think only 3 got shot and, no, no one has ever said who was shot by whom with what. We are led to believe that a single man at the back of a house could shot 3 cops in body armor coming into the front of the house with a pistol that was never found in a surprise raid.

  19. "The Justice Department says Goines "made numerous materially false statements in the state search warrant" and afterward repeatedly lied about the circumstances of the raid. In addition to the civil rights charges, Goines is accused of falsifying records and obstructing an official proceeding."

    Thank you for this "bear shits in woods" story on police lying under oath and typical police misconduct.

    I still can't understand (as I suspect Acevedo can't) why this particular case of police lying under oath and typical misconduct has become such a big issue. The entire reason the Supreme's granted qualified immunity to police was so they could continue breaking the law and lying about it with complete immunity from criminal prosecution.

    Cops always lie in search warrants with judges and prosecutors building entire careers defending their legal right to do so. The media generally supports their lies by parroting whatever ridiculous claim law enforcement makes. once again, why is this particular case of lying and murder by the police suddenly such an issue?

    " already faced a state charge of tampering with a governmental record. The federal charge carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison."

    Why do journalists continue to report on maximums for criminals in blue when the real question is will they get the mandatory minimum, or something well below that. What I want to know is which judge will shed tears and give Goine's a big hug of support at his sentencing to home arrest providing the Prosecutor is shamed into going forward with any charges at all?

  20. There are whispers it was an attempted hit on one of the cops. That is the cops were going to kill one of their own and blame it on the Tuttles.

    1. According to one of the articles I read, that thesis is more consistent with the actual events than anything else I've read about this case. My thought was that it was a hit on one, or more of the Tuttles, but you're angle puts a whole different perspective on this.

      Say one of the cops on the indoor team was investigating/had dirt on/was going to rat on one of the cops in the outdoor team, and this was all a pretext to plausibly cover the murder?

  21. End the war on drugs, you mouth-breathing sociopaths.

    1. Again....I cannot upvote this....If I could, it would get all of the likes.

  22. What were the motives of all the people?

    Perhaps the neighbor bore a grudge and was mentally ill enough to make fake calls. But why did the cops do this? Was it just a "good bust" lottery ticket and they didn't care too much to check out any of the evidence, just wanted to scratch it off and see if they won?

    1. She sounds like someone suffering from paranoid schizophrenia. These people can go on and on about some imaginary thing. The fact that she reportedly said they got what they deserved in the immediate aftermath supports this being more than a prank over some grudge. A normal person would be horrified that their false report resulted in deaths and injuries.

    2. Is there a recording of her call, or only the lying cops' word?

  23. "TRAINING DAY" is every day in Houston. We must not forget that in the hours following this bust, on the 10 PM news, the cops were frothing at the mouth on TV, the police union rep was aggravated. basically warning reporters to steer clear, to accept the brave efforts of the men in blue, to respect their hard and dangerous work, or else. All to justify the umpteen thousandth drug bust in Harris County, as if with enough busts, on some magical day the drug trade would disappear.

    From this article: " the deadly bust only turned up small, user-level amounts of marijuana and cocaine." I submit and expect a majority will agree that cops could kick in doors in any Houston neighborhood and expect to find user amounts of "illegal" drugs in at least 1 out of every 3 and likely it would be more.


  24. Where's the ballistics report on the 357 that Tuttle supposedly used? Where's the 357? Where was the gunshot residue on Tuttle in his autopsy? At a recent press conference Acevedo dodged the question of the gun by saying "a gun" was recovered, then dodged off into an anecdote about how in Texas a gun would be found in a large number of homes.

    Acevedo has been making false accusations and misdirecting since the beginning.

  25. A bug fell into the printer changing Tuttle to Buttle on the Gestapo paperwork. Act of God, nobody's fault... like in the movie "Brazil."

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.