Houston: DA to review over 1400 cases involving officer accused of lying to obtain warrant, FBI probe opened

Houston Police Department Chief Art Acevedo holds up a letter from the FBI announcing the bureau's civil rights investigation related to the deaths of two people during the no-knock raid by narcotics officers that killed two people and injured five police officers last month, during a press conference from Houston City Hall, Wednesday, Feb. 20, 2019.

By JUAN A. LOZANO,  Associated Press  HOUSTON (AP) 02/20 — Prosecutors will review more than 1,400 criminal cases that involved a Houston officer who the police chief has accused of lying in an affidavit justifying a drug raid on a home in which officers shot and killed two residents, authorities said Wednesday.

The FBI also announced that it is opening an investigation to determine whether any civil rights were violated as a result of the raid and shooting last month.

Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo said at a news conference that he welcomed the FBI investigation “in the spirit of transparency.”

Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg said her office’s review will look at cases spanning decades that involved Officer Gerald Goines, a 30-year department veteran. Twenty-seven of those cases are active.

Houston Police Department Chief Art Acevedo joins Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner during a press conference updating the public on ongoing investigations related to the no-knock raid by narcotics officers that killed two people and injured five police officers last month, during a press conference from Houston City Hall, Wednesday, Feb. 20, 2019. (Mark Mulligan/Houston Chronicle via AP)


“Although the criminal investigation of Officer Goines is ongoing, we have an immediate ethical obligation to notify defendants and their lawyers in Goines’ other cases to give them an opportunity to independently review any potential defenses,” Ogg said in a statement.

Goines was one of the four officers who were shot in a gunfight that killed 59-year-old Dennis Tuttle and 58-year-old Rhogena Nicholas, who both lived in the home where the raid occurred on Jan. 28. A fifth officer injured his knee during the shooting.

Police investigators now allege that Goines, who’s been suspended, lied in the search warrant affidavit, saying a confidential informant had bought heroin at the home. But the informant told investigators no such drug buy ever took place.

Goines’ attorney, Nicole DeBorde, said Wednesday that Ogg’s review is necessary.

“It’s exactly the right thing for her to do,” DeBorde said. “We welcome that.”

DeBorde has said Goines is innocent of any crime. She said partial information that has been released about Goines has painted a “very one-sided picture of (Goines’) character.”

The FBI’s probe will look at the “totality of everything that went down” with the drug raid and shooting to determine if someone was deprived of their civil rights, said agency spokesman Connor Hagan.

Hagan declined to comment further on the case, citing the ongoing investigation.

Acevedo said the FBI’s involvement doesn’t mean the federal agency will be taking over his department’s investigation into the drug raid and shooting and whether any state charges will be filed.

The police chief also asked residents to not let the actions of one officer represent the department.

“The majority of our men and women are honorable, dedicated professionals,” Acevedo said.

No timeline was given for how long the various investigations will take.

Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner asked residents to be patient and allow for a “complete, thorough, honest and credible investigation.”

Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner holds a press conference updating the public on ongoing investigations related to the no-knock raid by narcotics officers that killed two people and injured five police officers last month, during a press conference from Houston City Hall, Wednesday, Feb. 20, 2019. (Mark Mulligan/Houston Chronicle via AP)


DeBorde said a neutral review of the raid, and of Goines’ police work, is necessary but that the effort has been undermined by Acevedo’s public comments criticizing Goines.

Acevedo also announced that his department on Wednesday formally changed its policy to restrict the use of “no-knock warrants,” which was the kind used in the deadly drug raid. Under such warrants, police can enter a home without giving any notification. Acevedo said he or someone he designates must now approve all such warrants.

The police chief also announced that body cameras will now be worn by SWAT team members and by officers who execute search warrants. Officers involved in the drug raid did not wear body cameras.



Chief: Houston police will end use of no-knock warrants

HOUSTON (AP) 02/19 — Houston police will no longer use no-knock warrants following a drug raid on a home that turned into a deadly shootout in which two suspects were killed and five undercover officers were injured, the city’s police chief said.

“The no-knock warrants are going to go away like leaded gasoline in this city,” Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo announced during a town hall meeting Monday.

He said officers will need to request a special exemption from his office to conduct a no-knock raid.

The decision comes as the city faces criticism from local community activists for the Jan. 28 raid that led to the deaths of 59-year-old Dennis Tuttle and 58-year-old Rhogena Nicholas, who both lived in the home. Four officers were shot in the gunfight and another was injured but not shot.

Acevedo revealed last week that an investigation into the drug raid found a 30-year veteran of the force lied in an affidavit to justify storming the house without warning. Officer Gerald Goines, who prepared the search warrant, has since been suspended and it’s unclear what charges he could face, according to the police chief.

Goines couldn’t immediately be reached for comment.

“I’m very confident we’re going to have criminal charges on one or more of the officers,” Acevedo said.

Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg said her office will investigate and hold those involved accountable.

Acevedo also announced a new policy for undercover officers to wear body cameras during raids .

Residents whose family members were killed in no-knock raids spoke out against the department for not investigating enough before using the tactic.

“I just want to see change, that’s it,” said Aurora Charles, whose 55-year-old brother was killed during a no-knock raid in 2013. “They’ve got to do their homework before they go in with these warrants.”

No-knock warrants have also been challenged in Little Rock, Arkansas. The city and its police department face a lawsuit alleging that officers use misleading or false information to justify unlawful drug raids, mostly against black residents.



Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Posted in: Accusations, Body Cameras, Civil Rights, Civilian Complaints, Community Relations, Conviction Integrity, Deaths, Drugs/Drug Trafficking, FBI, Investigations, Misconduct/Abuse of Authority, Police Leadership, Policies & Practices, Prosecutors, Search Warrants, Shootings, SWAT, Use of Deadly Force

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