On Wednesday evening, Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg announced 15 new felony charges against six former Houston Police Department officers connected to the January 2019 drug raid gone awry that led to the deaths of married couple Dennis Tuttle and Rhogena Nicholas.
The new charges came about from the systematic review being conducted by the DA’s office of thousands of past cases handled by members of the HPD narcotics squad at the heart of the fatal raid due to concerns that they may have acted improperly in numerous prosecutions over the years.
This review uncovered new alleged crimes by the two former HPD partners in the middle of the raid, Gerald Goines and Steven Bryant, as well as former HPD sergeants Clemente Reyna and Thomas Wood, former lieutenant Robert Gonzales and former senior officer Hodgie Armstrong.
The charges made by Ogg’s office on Wednesday against the former officers are tied to allegations of falsifying government documents used in narcotics investigation, using false information to seek warrant approval from judges, falsification of timesheets, lying on written reports and falsifying government documents to steal money intended for undercover drug purchases.
“The new charges show a pattern and practice of lying and deceit,” Ogg said. Her office alleges that these officers were involved in signing records saying they personally witnessed street-level drug buys by undercover cops when evidence later revealed they weren’t physically present, in addition to allegedly claiming and verifying false overtime hours on timesheets for each other.
“Some will say that this scheme is just mismanagement. It is not,” Ogg said. “It is long running evidence of graft and corruption that can literally rot an institution from the inside out.”
Last August, Goines and Bryant were both indicted in connection to the raid, Goines with two counts of felony murder and tampering with a governmental record and Bryant with tampering with a governmental record. Goines led the raid after securing a no-knock warrant that let HPD enter the victims’ home unannounced, after which gunfire broke out almost immediately, leading to the deaths of Tuttle and Nicholas, their dog and injuries to five HPD officers.
Referred to as "the Pecan Park raid" and "the Harding Street raid," the botched drug bust gained national attention and drew plenty of ire toward HPD and Chief Art Acevedo for their handling of the incident and their subsequent response.
The January 2019 raid was conducted on the false assumption that Tuttle and Nicholas were heroin dealers, based on a tip from one of the couple’s neighbors, but the only drugs that were found in their home were small amounts of marijuana and cocaine.
Goines had obtained the no-knock warrant from a municipal judge based on an alleged informant who claimed to have bought heroin at the home of Tuttle and Nicholas, but it turned out no proof of the informant’s claim or even their existence could be produced.
Bryant later filed a supplement to the police report on the raid that he found heroin which matched the drugs bought by the alleged informant at the scene of the raid, which District Attorney Ogg’s office found to be false. Goines later admitted in a written affidavit that the informant he referenced in his warrant request was fabricated.
Earlier this month, Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner issued an executive order that raised the institutional barriers and safeguards in place around the issuing of no-knock warrants, among other HPD policy reforms intended to limit the use of deadly force by city police.
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In a statement posted to Facebook Wednesday night, Houston Police Officers’ Union President Joe Gamaldi referred to the new charges as “clearly a political ploy” from Ogg, whom he alleged is seeking to indict as many police officers as possible in the aftermath of George Floyd’s killing.
“We look forward to our officers’ day in court,” Gamaldi said.
Below is the full list of new charges filed Wednesday and their potential penalties, provided by the Harris County District Attorney’s Office:
Officer Gerald Goines – Three charges of tampering with a government record (search warrants.) Third-Degree Felony, two to 10 years in prison. One charge of theft by a public servant between $2,500 and $30,000, Third-Degree Felony.
Officer Steven Bryant –Two charges of tampering with a government record (confidential informant forms which contain details of money allegedly given to informants for services or buying drugs.) State Jail Felony, six months to two years in jail. One charge of theft by a public servant between $2,500 and $30,000, a Third-Degree Felony.
Sgt. Clemente Reyna – Three charges of tampering with a government record (confidential informant forms.) State Jail Felony. One charge of theft by a public servant between $2,500 and $30,000, Third-Degree Felony.
Sgt. Thomas Wood – One charge of tampering with a government record (confidential informant form.) State Jail Felony. One charge of theft by a public servant between $2,500 and $30,000, Third-Degree Felony.
Lt. Robert Gonzales – One charge of misapplication of fiduciary property, State Jail Felony, for the reckless handling of HPD money. Gonzales held a position of trust and was required to verify and authorize any expenditures of up to $2,500.
Officer Hodgie Armstrong - one charge of tampering with a government record (offense report,) State Jail Felony.