Houston Officer Behind Deadly Botched Raid Hit With Two Felony Murder Indictments

from the some-people-earn-their-indictments dept

Former Houston PD officer Gerald Goines is going to face murder charges. At least he's alive to face them. The victims of Goines' botched no-knock raid -- Dennis Tuttle and Rhogena Nicholas -- don't have the luxury of watching justice be done. The residents of the house were killed by police officers performing a raid targeting heroin that never existed, utilizing a warrant filled with lies based on statements made by a confidential informant who didn't exist, and drugs pulled from a cop car console.

Goines is facing both state and federal charges. And the charges are still coming in. Multiple investigations are still ongoing. Nearly 14,000 cases linked to the now-disbanded Squad 15 (of the Narcotics Division) are under review by the District Attorney's office and dozens of pending cases have already been dismissed.

The charges brought against Goines late last year are now officially backed by an indictment, as Jacob Sullum reports for Reason.

"Because officers lied, people died," Harris County, Texas, District Attorney Kim Ogg said today at a press conference where she announced a grand jury indictment of two former Houston narcotics officers who were involved in a January 2019 drug raid that killed a middle-aged couple in their home. The indictment confirms the state charges filed last August against Gerald Goines, who is accused of lying to obtain the warrant for the raid, and Steven Bryant, who is accused of subsequently backing up Goines' false portrayal of Dennis Tuttle and Rhogena Nicholas as dangerous heroin dealers.

Yes, it's incredibly easy to obtain a grand jury indictment. But the success rate drops precipitously when it's a cop being charged. This isn't a testament to the trustworthiness of grand jury proceedings, but rather an indication of just how irredeemable Officer Goines' actions were.

It's impossible to know how many people's rights were violated by Officer Goines and the PD's Narcotic Division, but we can say definitively Goines caused the death of two people who had nothing in their house but a small amount of drugs for personal use. They were never dealers and did not use heroin. But Goines used a bunch of lies to turn a couple who had been married for 21 years into dangerous drug dealers, and instigated a no-knock raid that resulted in multiple injured cops and two dead Houston residents.

Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo took over a troubled police department and promised greater officer accountability. He has failed to turn things around since his arrival in 2007. A narcotics unit doesn't become a flagrant abuser of rights overnight. It's something that steadily gets worse in the absence of accountability. Because no one felt compelled to engage in meaningful oversight, 14,000 cases linked to a single squad are now being reviewed for further evidence of illegality and misconduct.

Acevedo failed this test as well. He initially offered his support for an officer now charged with murder. Police officials complain all the time about people drawing assumptions before all the facts are in, but they are the first to offer their support of officers' actions before all the facts are in. The facts are in. And the facts make the entire department look awful. Goines isn't an aberration. He's just the one who got caught.

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Filed Under: art acevedo, dennis tuttle, gerald goines, houston, murder, qualified immunity, rhogena nicholas


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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 22 Jan 2020 @ 4:03pm

    Minor quibble, but Acevedo started in November, 2016, not 2007.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Sharur, 23 Jan 2020 @ 10:29am

      Re: minor quibble

      I don't think that's a minor quibble at all, being nearly a decade off.

      I feel that failing to clean up a (large) department in 3 years very different from failing to clean it it in 15.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Pixelation, 22 Jan 2020 @ 4:31pm

    Texas loves the death penalty

    Seems like this would be a good case for it. How many innocent people are dead or in jail because of this guy?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Stephen T. Stone (profile), 22 Jan 2020 @ 5:08pm

    Goines isn't an aberration. He's just the one who got caught.

    Or, put another way: Goines isn’t a flaw in the system — he’s the system working, per the implicit wishes of his superiors and the police union, exactly as intended.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 22 Jan 2020 @ 6:59pm

    I just looked at Chief Acevedo's twitter and surprise surprise, he is in favor of Virginia government's proposed gun laws. If only Tuttle had got the shot off on Goines the state could have saved some money on trial and prison for a criminal breaking into his house gun blazing.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      christenson, 22 Jan 2020 @ 7:51pm

      Re:

      Whatever you think of gun laws, it's nice to have your opponents disarmed....

      Me, how's about we apply gun laws (especially the training parts; these guys aren't weekenders but carry daily) to the cops????

      As a public health numbers guy, you want to think about the statistics:
      20K per year shoot themselves and die
      10K per year are shot by someone else
      1K are shot by cops
      100 are shot in schools.

      Which says that to save lives,
      1) prevent gun theft, make it always difficult
      2) make the ammo non-toxic (lead does all kinds of horrible, subtle shit to folks, and those firing weapons are exposed)
      3) work on the mental health aspects... gun license --> automatic ticket to social life.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    icon
    techwikies (profile), 22 Jan 2020 @ 11:20pm

    techwikies

    Here we will show you today How can you Download and Install Video Players & Editors App GPlayer on PC running any OS including Windows and MAC variants, however, https://www.techwikies.com

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Nick, 22 Jan 2020 @ 11:58pm

    The only thing more prevalent than mass shootings these days is stories about badged criminals jamming up and/or executing innocent civilians and petty criminals (often criminalized by a generation of this type LEO behavior destroying their chances before they got started).

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    peter, 23 Jan 2020 @ 1:28am

    Where is the FULL investigation?

    Past cases linked to this squad are being looked at, but I still want to know what has happened to an investigation into the whole police department including their immediate supervisors, superiors and their Internal Affairs / complaints dept.

    The actions of these officers and their Squad did not happen in a vacuum. Nor were they an isolated incidents. And i refuse to believe that there were not multiple complaints and accusations made against officers of this squad, let alone other squads.

    The failure here is not just of a couple of rogue police officers or even an out of control Squad. It smacks highly of an entire department who swept any problems under the carpet as long as they kept the numbers up for "taking out the bad guys". The whole thing smells not just of wilful blindness or supervisory failures, but complicity.

    Who is to say the failures of one Squad and their Supervisors is not endemic throughout the whole Department.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    mechtheist (profile), 23 Jan 2020 @ 4:45am

    Drugs don't kill people, drug laws kill people

    Another tragedy adding to the massive pile of evidence that the whole legal system anti-drug apparatus needs to go. What's more dangerous, a drug dealer or a narcotics unit cop?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      bhull242 (profile), 23 Jan 2020 @ 7:47am

      Re: Drugs and drug laws kill people

      I just have to take issue with the subject line. Drugs absolutely kill people. (Though not all drugs in feasible doses.) Heroin kills people. Opioids kill people. Cocaine kills people. Alcohol kills people. Nicotine kills people. Narcotics (by which I mean the medical term referring extreme painkillers and such, not what law enforcement calls narcotics) kill people. Meth kills people. Many if not all prescription drugs kill people.

      Drug laws—in there current form and under current enforcement regimes—have a stronger tendency to increase the death toll more than it reduces it, but drugs in and of themselves are still deadly.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 23 Jan 2020 @ 9:00am

        Re: Re: Drugs and drug laws kill people

        Drugs absolutely kill people. (Though not all drugs in feasible doses.) Heroin kills people. Opioids kill people. Cocaine kills people. Alcohol kills people. Nicotine kills people. Narcotics (by which I mean the medical term referring extreme painkillers and such, not what law enforcement calls narcotics) kill people. Meth kills people. Many if not all prescription drugs kill people.

        Now, now, now...those things kill people in the same way that guns kill people. Bring up gun control and you have a whole rabid segment of the population chiming on about "but muh freedomz!"

        Those that die from drugs are simply those who fail to exercise personal judgement, and the rest of us shouldn't be denied the choice to use drugs because of a few bad apples.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          bhull242 (profile), 23 Jan 2020 @ 10:14am

          Re: Re: Re: Drugs and drug laws kill people

          I don’t disagree with that per se, though calling it a choice is ignoring how addictive many of these substances are. Additionally, the government is currently showing (at least in Ohio) that they can reduce deaths from drugs without overenforcement of drug laws in how they’ve handled the opioid epidemic. Granted, heroin drug overdoses have increased since then, but overall deaths have still declined. Also, for many drugs (like heroin or meth), I’m not sure that there is a responsible use. And even one use can have permanent effects on one’s health.

          At any rate, that particular gun argument is reductive. The fact is that guns and drugs both kill people directly. And it’s particularly offensive regarding drugs.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Your Grandkids, 23 Jan 2020 @ 9:29am

        Re: Re: Drugs and drug laws kill people

        Lots of things kill people and yet we do not have similar laws addressing those other things. Just imagine nations attempting to thwart their desire for warfare - lol, yeah that will never happen.

        I do not think the human race is capable of saving themselves. Too many ignorant people making bad choices based mostly upon monetary considerations. What do they care ... they wont be here when it all goes to hell.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Valkor, 23 Jan 2020 @ 12:26pm

      Re: Drugs don't kill people, drug laws kill people

      The drug dealer is probably more dangerous, but the bad narc cop is more reprehensible.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 23 Jan 2020 @ 6:19am

    One thing is certain, there will be lots of hand wringing, hem hawing, and hand waving before the perp walks and nothing is actually done.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 23 Jan 2020 @ 6:25am

    This isn't a testament to the trustworthiness of grand jury proceedings, but rather an indication of just how irredeemable Officer Goines' actions were.

    Also the fact that he's black. Not saying he doesn't deserve to be charged. I'm just saying that it wouldn't have been surprising if he had been let off for this had he been white.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Ed (profile), 23 Jan 2020 @ 7:09am

    How long until Trump pardons him? /s

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      bhull242 (profile), 23 Jan 2020 @ 7:48am

      Re: Drugs and drug laws kill people

      You say you’re being sarcastic, but I honestly wouldn’t be surprised if he did.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Stephen T. Stone (profile), 24 Jan 2020 @ 8:55am

      Serious answer: Trump can’t pardon people if they haven’t been charged/convicted of a federal crime. Only the governor of a given state can pardon for state-level crimes.

      Not-so-serious answer: He’ll grant the pardon right after his PR team comes up with a way to say he thinks there were “very fine people” on both sides of the shooting…that doesn’t piss off more than half the country.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anon, 23 Jan 2020 @ 8:39am

    Knock, knock

    The thing I see most frightening is the proliferation of no-knock warrants. I recall reading about this during the Nixon administration, where news reports mentioned one warrant and how difficult it was (special circumstances) to get one. Today they seem to be the norm. Really? Is it necessary to storm a house because of the possibility of drugs, because of the possibility they could be flushed? If the quantity is that large, I doubt they are so easily flushable. Plus, the informant's testimony and the drugs they produced should be more than sufficient for a conviction. (Unless the informant is unreliable).

    Not to mention - when storming a house with the full power of the state, all officers should be in full uniform. A bunch of strange plain-clothes people breaking in the door and (supposedly) shouting "Police" does not prove anything nor provide grounds to claim the occupants should not defend themselves.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 23 Jan 2020 @ 9:34am

      Re: Knock, knock

      During the tricky dick admin, I remember reading a story about a no knock raid on the wrong address. A big difference was they were not yet using flash bangs to kill children, they did not yet have tanks, and they did not destroy the home just to get the perp. The first instance I recall of that happening was in Philadelphia where the cops dropped bombs on row houses.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    ECA (profile), 23 Jan 2020 @ 12:42pm

    What are the requirements?

    Of a police dept?
    its not to find solutions.

    Its to listen to those Above them, Bitch, moan and complain..
    then go out and arrest someone..
    But you cant find the problem so you Create it. And Show that your Part of Justice is being done, and you are not sitting on your but, getting paid to do nothing.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Louis, 23 Jan 2020 @ 1:42pm

    Why only 2 murder charges?

    When committing a crime and someone is killed, the whole gang face murder changes, even the gateway driver that never set foot in the crime location. So why only the two shooters facing murder changes? Shouldn't it be that by that logic against "criminals", every officers in that raid plus their leaders be facing those same murder changes?
    Or is it again a case that law officers don't have to live by the same laws that affect the rest of us?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      ECA (profile), 23 Jan 2020 @ 4:05pm

      Re: Why only 2 murder charges?

      Look up Conspiracy..really look up the rules to declare it.
      Because if they Could/Would they could include the City, State, Police union and training facilities, as well as the requirements to BE a police officer as well as requirements to KEEP a police officer.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 27 Jan 2020 @ 6:06am

    I like this Headline for this story, but its just so sad in that it was all preventable.

    Another Headline I'd like to see;

    "Dems hit with MUTINY Charges for conspiring against the Commander in Chief three years running!"

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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