Independent Forensic Investigation Undermines Houston Cops' Narrative About Fatal Drug Raid

from the cops-lie dept

Everything about the botched no-knock raid by the Houston Police Department just keeps getting worse. Here's how everything has gone down so far:

  • The HPD said the raid was predicated on a tip that drugs were being sold in the house. In actuality, the "tip" was one of the now-dead resident's mother calling the police to tell them her daughter was using drugs.
  • A drug buy was set up using an informant. The informant claimed he had purchased heroin from the house, seen plenty of heroin packaged for sale, and several guns. No heroin was found during the raid and the heroin sent out for testing came from the console of an officer's vehicle.
  • The officers claimed one of the residents, 59-year-old Dennis Tuttle, opened fire on them, necessitating the use of force that left Tuttle and his wife of 20 years dead. The gun supposedly fired at officers was not included in the search warrant inventory.
  • The officers involved in the raid are now under investigation by the FBI and the DA's office. This has led to the dismissal of criminal cases the two officers were involved in.

Everything about the raid points to a drug unit that loves to raid houses but no so much the due diligence that goes with it. This, shall we say… "zealous" enforcement of the law ended with the deaths of two drug users -- not dealers -- at the hands of cops who have proven to be entirely unreliable when it comes to the "investigation" part of drug investigations.

Another investigation has been opened. An independent forensic review -- headed by a former NCIS supervisor -- of the crime scene has been conducted and the results are jaw-dropping. Not only do they indicate the officers' narrative of the raid is highly-dubious, it shows the Houston PD's forensic team is possibly no better at its job than the officers behind the botched raid.

Hired by the relatives of Rhogena Nicholas and Dennis Tuttle, the new forensics team found no signs the pair fired shots at police — and plenty of signs that previous investigators overlooked dozens of pieces of potential evidence in what one expert called a “sloppy” investigation.

“It doesn’t appear that they took the basic steps to confirm and collect the physical evidence to know whether police were telling the truth,” said attorney Mike Doyle, who is representing the Nicholas family. “That’s the whole point of forensic scene documentation. That’s the basic check on people just making stuff up.”

The police claimed they started firing when the couple's dog charged at them as they came through the door. But the investigation shows the dog was killed in the dining room, more than 15 feet from the front door. The investigators also couldn't find anything confirming the officers' claims that Tuttle started firing at them as they came through the door. It also appears some of the officers were firing into the house before entering it -- another contradiction of the official narrative.

Some of the bullet holes outside the house appeared at least a foot from the door, a fact that Doyle flagged as troubling.

“You can’t see into the house from there,” he said, “you’re firing into the house through a wall.”

It's not just evidence that appears to contradict the official story. The independent investigators also came across a ton of evidence that was never gathered by Houston PD investigators. Left behind were items tagged as evidence, the drugs the HPD drug unit was so hot and bothered about, and a bunch of bullets and casings that could help reconstruct what actually happened inside the house during the raid.

As Radley Balko points out, this really doesn't look good for the Houston PD Forensics unit. It suggests two things -- neither of them positive.

The most damning explanation is that the investigators were covering for the cops. A slightly less damning, but still pretty bad, explanation is that the investigators simply took the cops’ word about what happened and thus saw no need to carefully inspect the crime scene. The least damning explanation is that the cops got no special treatment at all. But that would mean that this is the way crime-scene investigators handle all homicide investigations. You know you’ve been roped into a scandal when the most flattering explanation for your behavior is that you aren’t corrupt, you’re merely incompetent.

This is bad news for the Houston PD and everyone in their jurisdiction. This case has had zero positive developments since it first started making national headlines. A moratorium on no-knock raids might reduce the number of people killed by police officers, but it isn't going to fix the underlying issues that lead to the deadly raid -- and its horrendous aftermath.

Filed Under: dennis tuttle, drug raid, forensics, houston, houston police, rhogenia nicholas


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  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 17 May 2019 @ 6:28pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    THB I'd rather read about humans, regardless of occupation, getting a fair trial, and reasonable sentancing (or lack there of) base on a thing called 'evidence'.


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