Drug War

Another Houston Cop Is Indicted for Murder Because of a 2019 Drug Raid That Killed a Middle-Aged Couple

So far a dozen narcotics officers have been charged as a result of the investigation triggered by the disastrous operation.

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A second Houston narcotics officer has been charged with murder in connection with the January 2019 no-knock drug raid that killed Dennis Tuttle and Rhogena Nicholas in their home on Harding Street. Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg yesterday announced that a grand jury had indicted Officer Felipe Gallegos for murdering Tuttle, who according to police fired at the cops after they broke into his home and killed his dog while serving a search warrant based on a heroin deal that never happened. Gallegos faces a maximum penalty of life in prison if convicted.

Gerald Goines, the former narcotics officer who lied to obtain the search warrant, already had been charged with two counts of felony murder as well as federal civil rights violations. Steven Bryant, an officer who backed up Goines' phony story, likewise faces state and federal charges. Prosecutors say Goines' shady practices go back more than a decade, tainting at least 164 convictions.

The new indictments also include eight current or former narcotics officers who are accused of "engaging in organized criminal activity" by falsifying government records as part of "a long-term scheme to steal overtime from the city." Five were charged with first-degree felonies that carry a maximum penalty of life in prison, while three were charged with second-degree felonies punishable by prison terms of two to 20 years.

So far 12 current or former narcotics officers have been charged as a result of the investigation triggered by the Harding Street raid. "The consequences of corruption are that two innocent people and their dog were shot to death in their home by police; four officers were shot, one paralyzed," Ogg said. "Now all of them will face jurors who will determine their fate."

Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo, who described the cops who killed Tuttle and Nicholas as "heroes" but wants credit for not covering up Goines' lies, implicitly criticized the decision to charge Gallegos with murder. "It was our investigation that uncovered the malfeasance of the two former HPD officers [Goines and Bryant] who were subsequently charged with criminal offenses related to their actions in obtaining the warrant," he said in a statement he posted on Twitter yesterday. "Today, I learned that another officer who was involved in the Harding Street officer-involved shooting [Gallegos] has been indicted for murder. I have said many times that the other officers involved in the incident, including the officer indicted today, had no involvement in obtaining the warrant and responded appropriately to the deadly threat posed to them during its service."

The grand jury obviously disagreed. Contrary to what Acevedo implies, the issues raised by this disastrous operation go beyond the fictitious transaction that supposedly justified it. According to a lawyer representing Nicholas' family, she and Tuttle were taking a nap when plainclothes cops stormed into their house around 5 p.m. and immediately used a shotgun to kill their dog. According to Acevedo, Tuttle responded to this violent invasion by grabbing a revolver and shooting at the intruders, who responded with overwhelming force.

Two years later, the HPD still has not publicly said how many shots were fired or which rounds struck the injured officers. The Houston Chronicle notes that "neither Acevedo nor Ogg has ever released the ballistics report showing which officers shot Tuttle or Nicholas."

The cops claimed they had to shoot Nicholas because she was moving toward an injured officer who had collapsed on a couch and seemed like she was about to take his shotgun. A forensic examination commissioned by her family contradicted that account, finding that the fatal shot was fired by someone standing outside the house who would not have been able to see her. The indictment of Gallegos for killing Tuttle means prosecutors believe that shooting was not justified either. The charge against Gallegos says he "unlawfully, intentionally and knowingly" caused Tuttle's death by shooting him.

At a press conference today, the officer's lawyer, Rusty Hardin, said the grand jury had "indicted a hero." According to Hardin, Gallegos "had no idea" the search warrant was based on false information, and he shot Tuttle after his colleagues were wounded. Hardin conceded that "it appears [Tuttle and Nicholas] were innocent of drug activity." But he added that once Tuttle "started shooting," firing a total of four rounds, "he was not innocent." Hardin said witnesses heard the officers shout "Police! Search warrant!" as they entered the house, and "they were dressed in a way" that "anybody would look at them and know they were a police officer."

Nicholas' mother and brother have been trying to discover exactly what happened during the raid, which was not recorded by body cameras. Their lawyer, Michael Doyle, is seeking to depose city and HPD officials. The city has resisted him at every turn. The Texas Supreme Court has twice rejected the city's attempts to move the case out of Harris County Probate Court. A few weeks ago, Judge Kenneth Hoyt of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas agreed that the case belongs where it is.

"The Nicholas family again is grateful to be moving forward with our investigation," Doyle said in a press release. "It's time for the cover-up to end. The city's continuing efforts to conceal the truth about the Harding Street raid have now been rejected by five separate county, state and federal courts. Judge Hoyt's order rejected the City's unprecedented, two-year cover-up of the facts of the killings, who was involved, and who needs to be held accountable. This federal-court order means the city's wall of silence will start crumbling."

In addition to the fraudulent warrant and the questionable use of deadly force, the raid has revealed what Ogg calls a "pattern and practice of lying and deceit," including phony overtime and fake documentation of payments to confidential informants. Based on those findings, she filed felony charges against six narcotics officers, including Goines, Bryant, and three supervisors, last summer. Three of those cops—Sgt. Clemente Reyna, Sgt. Thomas Wood, and Officer Hodgie Armstrong—are among those charged again this week. Reyna's attorney complained that Ogg is trying to "criminalize administrative errors" and "repackaging" the charges from July.

"Houston Police narcotics officers falsified documentation about drug payments to confidential informants with the support of supervisors," Ogg said in July. "Goines and others could never have preyed on our community the way they did without the participation of their supervisors; every check and balance in place to stop this type of behavior was circumvented." After Ogg announced those charges, which included theft and tampering with government documents, Acevedo finally released the results of an internal audit that revealed widespread sloppiness, if not outright malfeasance, in the HPD's Narcotics Division.

Acevedo portrays himself as an avatar of transparency and reform—a role he unconvincingly played during the Democratic National Convention last summer. But after repeatedly describing Tuttle and Nicholas as dangerous heroin dealers who maintained a locally notorious "drug house," he was forced to admit that the case against them, which began with a false tip from a neighbor, had been fabricated. Now Acevedo, who 10 months after the raid was still dismissing "the chances of this being systemic," wants us to believe the problem is limited to a couple of bad apples.

[This post has been updated with comments from Gallegos' lawyer.]

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  1. Any word on whether the cop who killed Ashli Babbitt will be charged?

    Because trespassing on public property doesn’t justify shooting an unarmed protester.

    1. Probably, the Capital Police officer will get qualified immunity because he was never trained to not fire wildly into a crowd of unarmed people.

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      2. Qualified immunity doesn’t apply to criminal charges.

        As she was part of a mob breaking down barriers in the face of armed law enforcement, however, and not merely a trespasser, I doubt he gets charged.

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      3. I realize you are trying to be sarcastic, but have you watched any of the video?

        There was nothing ‘wild’ about his firing. It was a single aimed shot at a person posing no immediate threat to anyone.

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        2. The cop was justified at shooting an intruder who had been climbing into his protective zone.

          Had she gotten through, he would’ve been forced to shoot her in the back or to shoot the next person climbing or whoever might’ve assaulted him.

          He made the right choice; shoot the first one and prevent chaos.

          All three people who died that day, died because of law enforcement. And there really were blameless for it.

    2. She was forcibly entering an area of the capital where members of congress were located. The shooting was justified. The police officer will be fully cleared of any wrongdoing.

      1. So approaching a member of Congress while unarmed is a capital offense now?

        Why weren’t the protesters who accosted members of Congress in the Capital during the Kavanaugh hearings shot, then?

        1. or the crowd that pursued Rand Paul?

        2. When you are in an angry mob, chanting death threats, physical breaking doors and windows, and beating police officers with flag poles, yes the police are justified in using lethal force if you are about to enter the area where the Members of Congress are.

          1. “beating police officers with flag poles, ”

            she beat someone with a flagpole?

            1. She did not.

              1. So, shooting her is ok because someone else hit a cop with a fire extinguisher?

                1. She was about to enter the area where Members of Congress were. She was a clear threat to them. No difference then if you mobbed your way into the White House and made it to the West Wing.

                  1. “She was about to enter the area where Members of Congress were”

                    So we kill people for potentially gainimg an audience with Cogress?

                    1. Unless their audience is with Rand Paul

                    2. Nothing says libertarian like shooting people for entering a building they own

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                  2. What exactly was the threat that the single unarmed women posed to any congressperson? Tell me what she could have done, and explain why the policeman didn’t simply walk up to her and arrest her.

                  3. You are a sub human piece of shit. This tiny woman was unarmed, surrounded by armed cops and posed a threat to no one. She was somebody’s daughter, somebody’s sister. And she was murdered in cold blood by an agent of the state who will never face justice unlike the cops in Houston only because vermin like you and Jacob Sullum are infected with TDS derangement. Fuck you. And Jacob too.

                    1. He is a Demorrhoid, therefore “subhuman piece of shit” can be assumed.

                2. Yes that is MollyGodiva’s exceedingly vapid point.

                  No it does not apply to BLM or antifa apparently.

                  1. If BLM broke into the Capital in an attempt to kill the VP or Members of Congress then they would be shot too.

                    1. “broke into the Capital in an attempt to kill ”

                      she attempted to kill someone?

                    2. nope

                    3. It was Antifa who broke in how many of them were shot?

                    4. “If BLM broke into the Capital in an attempt to kill the VP or Members of Congress then they would be shot too.”

                      If you’re claiming that Ashli Babbitt was attempting to kill members of Congress, you need to support that with a link.

                      You don’t get to just make shit up, or people will laugh at you, and if you make shit up, people should laugh at you.

                    5. No evidence this woman was attempting to kill anyone or even had the wherewithal to do so.

          2. Yeah, and it was totally necessary to shoot that one woman and no one else. Totally sensible, necessary and justified.

          3. So that was the missing piece in Portland…all they needed was one member of congress in the federal building and they could have gone guns a-blazing. Lesson learned.

            1. Yup. Clearly shows it was justified.

              1. This was a BAD SHOOT.

                The four officers who were standing less than 2 feet from her, and who moved out of the way, didn’t think shooting her was justified, since they did not shoot her.

                The tactical officers at the top of the adjacent stairway didn’t think shooting her was justified, so they did not shoot her.

                The other three capitol police down the hall in the Speaker’s Lobby didn’t think shooting was justified, so they did not shoot her.

                It was a BAD SHOOT on the part of the officer who shot her for NO OTHER REASON than the risk of friendly fire–there were FOUR other Capitol police officers, against the wall at the top of the stairs.

                The shooting officer should be charged with MURDER.

                1. She did not become an immediate threat until she was climbing though the widow. At that point the cop who shot was the only one who had both a clear shot of what she was doing and a clean shot. It was about as a good shot as they get.

                  1. “Threat”—-to who? “Threat”—with what?

                    You must be trolling.

                2. [My kingdom for an edit button]

                  This:
                  “It was a BAD SHOOT on the part of the officer who shot her for NO OTHER REASON than the risk of friendly fire–there were FOUR other Capitol police officers, against the wall at the top of the stairs.”

                  Should have read:
                  “It was a BAD SHOOT on the part of the officer who shot her IF for NO OTHER REASON than the risk of friendly fire–there were FOUR other Capitol police officers, against the wall at the top of the stairs.”

        3. If an angry mob broke into your house and beat up your babysitter, and then broke the door to your bedroom where you were held up with your family, you would be justified to shoot them. Similar situation.

          1. “If an angry mob broke into your house ”

            she broke into someone’s house?

            “and beat up your babysitter”

            she beat someone up?

            “and then broke the door to your bedroom where you were held up with your family”

            she broke into someone’s bedroom?

            “Similar”

            similar means antithesis?

            1. No, no, no and yes when one is evil and trying to justify murder.

          2. So, if every single fact were different it would be similar, got it.

          3. Not of there was a cop standing by the door.

          4. Like the angry mob that invaded the St. Louis couple’s property and threatened their lives?

            It seems odd that the victims (the home owners defending themselves) were charged with weapons charges (and probably other charges too) despite never firing a shot, and the violent mob got a pass. It almost seems like a political decision on the part of the prosecutor, but that can’t happen, not in America.

      2. From the video I’ve seen, she was shot while trying to enter an area of the capitol that other protesters were already occupying. Unless the guy doing the videotaping was not considered part of the protesters. And if he wasn’t considered part of the protesters, doesn’t that raise a different set of questions as to why not, as to how the cops were somehow aware of who was a threat and who was not in this mob?

        1. You are mistaken. She was trying to enter an area that the rioters did not enter, and did not end up entering.

          1. Molly is correct on all posts above.

    3. “trespassing on public property doesn’t justify shooting”

      I saw on the facebook that she was charged, tried, and convicted of high treason and right-wing terrorism, capital crimes. #De-defundthepolice

    4. Turns out when you follow a group of rabid insurrectionists into the capitol, screaming “fuck you traitors!” slam on the capitol doors, scale the walls, break in through the window with ziptie handcuffs, toward a cop pointing a gun at you saying “get back or ill shoot”, you get shot. Big fucking surprise.

      Seems your clan usually are the ones to defend pretty much any police shoot or stand your ground shoot, so now you can eat this one. If a criminal is running away from a cop and there is a weapon within 50 feet of him he could theoretically grab, you justify it as a good shoot. But if a treasonous mob tries to break down the door and is told, “get back or get shot” and they keep advancing on police, its totes cool in your book. Frankly, its absolutely a testament to the temperament of the police there that there weren’t more dead.

      Be happy more of your Qanon brothers werent taken out, due to the benevolence and good judgement of those police officers.

      1. “Her Constitution was too short!”

      2. with ziptie

        Their crafting supplies were headed right for him.

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      3. Oh, dear. Zip tie handcuffs. Much more dangerous than the clubs, knives, rocks, frozen water bottles, lasers capable of damaging eyesight, Molotov cocktails and slingshots shooting ball bearings your Antifa buddies have been using all year.

        1. >>Zip tie handcuffs

          cause they’re sexier than regular zip ties

          1. The zip tie handcuffs are important. It shows a premeditated intent to kidnap Members of Congress. People don’t just carry them around, or even have access to those on a daily basis.

            1. You can’t kidnap members of Congress.

              Kidnapping victims have to be human.

              Congress considers themselves to be lawmakers and above us mere humans.

            2. Or it shows a smart precaution, knowing that violent Antifa members may attack you, so you carry a means to restrain them if they try.

        2. We need a MAGA wet mop on aisle 2 as in tu quoque, Trumpista Depends failure in progress in front of the contraceptives display.

      4. fuck off Shreek

      5. >>your clan usually are the ones to defend pretty much any police shoot or stand your ground shoot, so now you can eat this one

        kind of gave the game away here

      6. Seems your clan usually are the ones to defend pretty much any police shoot or stand your ground shoot, so now you can eat this one.

        Someone’s new around here.

      7. Seems your clan usually are the ones to defend pretty much any police shoot

        Uhh. Whose clan? You must be new here.

      8. This guy is arguing the boogeymen in his head.

      9. Nicely put. And the whole “vote fraud” fraud was cooked up as cover after NARAL endorsed Biden in June and God’s National Socialists tried the Hail Mary pass of slipping an Army of God jihadist onto the Supreme Court. That 1972 Libertarian Plank the earlier Court copied into Roe v Wade must really chafe Mohammedan-style mystics.

      10. My clan NRA joined ACLU in petitioning the Clinton Administration over Ruby Ridge and Waco objecting to overuse if SWAT, maximum force with minimum judgement, lies to justify no knock raids, and police use of force policies that exceed military rules of engagement and would get a soldier who followed them charged with war crimes. My contempt for the Hobbesian absolute state justified by a Webberian state monopoly on force goes back to the 1971 Ken Ballew Raid.

        You are obsessed with Qanon. They are not on my radar.

        The shooting of that gal would not be justified.

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    6. I’m sorry buddy. Yeah, she probably should not have been shot but climbing through a broken window?

      That was a tense situation and I can’t really fault the cop for over-reacting here.

      1. Fuck off slaver.

      2. Because it was a tense situation might speak to the question of whether the shooter should be charged with first degree murder or voluntary manslaughter, but trespassing on public property doesn’t justify shooting an unarmed protester regardless of whether it’s a tense situation.

    7. “police abuse” used to be Jacob’s beat. He even stayed on the Waco biker massacre story long after my search results turned up nothing. I came here and thanked him many times for his reporting. It would seem that the cold blooded murder of an unarmed protester would be something of interest to Sullum. But as it turns out, not so much. Jacob is a full blown statist apologist and occasionally reporting on corrupt cops in Houston does not absolve him.

    8. Lookit the girl-bullying impotent mystic whining! Ku-Klux Ken and his clones are what made it so easy for NARAL to get women voters to throw out Trump before another looter prohibitionist asset-forfeiture Crash. Drumming up the “we wuz robbed” fantasy fabricating unusual vote fraud conspiracies only shows how desperate Army og God lobbyists are lest duped Republicans realize they lost BECAUSE of mindless mystical fanatics bent on reversing the Libertarian Roe v Wade decision.

      1. The Hank Phillips Magic Decoder Ring translates this as: “glad she was shot.”

    9. “Trespassing on public property.” Sure, that comprehensively describes the situation. LOL.

      1. If you’re conceding the point that trespassing on public property doesn’t justify shooting an unarmed protester, congratulations on not being as morally depraved as some of the other people in this thread.

        But if you think there is some other factor that’s worthy of consideration in answering the question of whether or not the officer who shot this unarmed protester should be charged with a crime, you should be specific.

        Please note that I’m not saying the cop who killed Ashli Babbitt should be convicted beyond a reasonable doubt at this point. I’m saying that there is more than enough evidence that there should be charges and a trial.

        If you’re saying that there shouldn’t be a trial–despite the fact that trespassing on public property doesn’t justify shooting an unarmed protester–well, why are you saying that? Don’t keep it a mystery. Tell us why!

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  2. Proof again that cops can be held accountable, there’s just a very high bar to cross.

  3. No mention of Trump? I hope Sullum can handle the withdrawal symptoms.

  4. Only cops would lie and fabricate, never anyone else associated with government – especially not anyone involved with elections.

    1. Gosh, Narcz and Corn Beater both sobbing alongside Milo for the fallen leader their girl-bullying cowardice defeated? How pitifully pathetic.

      1. Would you like to meet in person, Hank?
        Let me know when you’ll be in Jacksonville.

  5. Hardin told a huge lie about Tuttle shooting at the cops. He didn’t. I hope the family sues for defamation.

  6. And see, also by Jacob Sullum, https://reason.com/2019/07/26/no-one-will-hurt-you-a-swat-officer-promised-an-hour-after-houston-cops-killed-a-couple-falsely-accused-of-selling-heroin/

    If the times on the cell phone video as reported are correct, and they seem to be, then more Houston police officers are much more guilty than this article suggests. Regardless of the time stamps, though, the cell phone video is completely incompatible with the story from the Houston police. Acevedo and officers involved are most likely … there aren’t words. They are beyond contempt.

    1. Jacob doesn’t give a shit about Ashli Babbitt because Orange Man Bad. It’s not complicated.

      1. Gosh, what a courageous NSDAP sockpuppet, hissing from behind that mask at the capable journalists subscribers pay to read! And duping that dumb girl into breaking and entering is now the keystone of the cover-up of how women voters splatted force-initiating mystical bigots face-first into street gravel. Rather than admit they drove women voters to the Dems, whiners insist they “wuz robbed” but do not pitch in to help Giuliani pay off legal liabilities for pressing forth the fraud. God’s Own Prohibitionists have themselves to blame. Good riddance.

      2. The “concern” about the police tools and tactics used against Antifa/BLM that was displayed here, and by multiple authors, was extensive.

        In this particular case? Crickets.

        They may not have declared a side, but they have certainly exhibited which side they are on.

  7. Let’s not forget that Acevedo was also peddling the lie that they couldn’t interrogate Goines because the shooting had left him unable to speak and then it turns out that Goines had written a note confessing that he had made up the confidential informant – and that it’s impossible to believe that Acevedo wasn’t aware of Goines confession even as he was still defending the SWAT team’s actions.

    1. Like many narcotics units, I’m guessing a “get convictions at all costs” attitude that lead to “sloppiness.” I’ll bet no suspect was ever actually let off due to this “sloppiness”, because police “sloppiness” always seems to be a series of mistakes all in the same direction. So that means the problem goes right up to the top, and Acevedo is trying to cover his own butt by gaining political goodwill and throwing Goines under the bus but not letting it get to supervisors.

      I gotta say, it’s fantastic to finally see some supervisors caught up in one of these. They should be the first ones investigated when something like this happens, but usually the “investigation” is all about finding excuses.

  8. Oh if I forgot to mention it Fuck You Jacob.

  9. Sullum’s followup is an example of why I have kept returning to Reason since the early 1980s. Austin’s Soap Creek Saloon band, the Uranium Savages, recorded “On The Bayou” as exposé of Houston cops casually murdering people. DJs from Amarillo to Brownsville played the song until a way was trumped up to declare it an infringement of “Jambalaya” by (get this!) Hank Williams. The Wallace Dixiecrat hold on southeast Texas is clearly weakening as libertarian spoiler vote clout helps bring murderers to justice.

  10. They haven’t released the shooting report because more than likely it will every person wounded and /or killed in this shit show was hit by shots fired by these Keystone Kops motherfuckers.

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  12. Thank you to whomever mentioned Randy Alan Webster (in the closed Reason article on the above killing 6 months ago). I had never heard of that one. The link is a very complete 1979 article on the killing and cover-up. The gang of dirty Huston cops only got 5 months probation. At least the truth was reviled.

    https://www.texasmonthly.com/articles/the-throwdown/

    1. revealed

    2. Thank for the link.

  13. “And how we burned in the camps later, thinking: What would things have been like if every Security operative, when he went out at night to make an arrest, had been uncertain whether he would return alive and had to say good-bye to his family? Or if, during periods of mass arrests, as for example in Leningrad, when they arrested a quarter of the entire city, people had not simply sat there in their lairs, paling with terror at every bang of the downstairs door and at every step on the staircase, but had understood they had nothing left to lose and had boldly set up in the downstairs hall an ambush of half a dozen people with axes, hammers, pokers, or whatever else was at hand?… The Organs would very quickly have suffered a shortage of officers and transport and, notwithstanding all of Stalin’s thirst, the cursed machine would have ground to a halt! If…if…We didn’t love freedom enough. And even more – we had no awareness of the real situation…. We purely and simply deserved everything that happened afterward.”

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