U.S.A. –-(AmmoLand.com)- On 28 January, 2019, a Houston Police Department Narcotics unit executed a no-knock warrant on an innocent Houston Couple, Dennis Tuttle, a disabled Navy veteran, and his wife Rhogena Nicholas, a devout Christian.
The raid was based on lies told to the court, about drug sales that never happened, to obtain the warrant. The couple were not drug dealers. When armed men burst into their home, without warning, and killed their dog, Denis Tuttle is said to have fought back with his .357 revolver.
Dennis and his wife Rhogena and their dog were all killed. The organizer of the raid, then officer Gerald Goins, was wounded in the neck. He could not talk. That may be why the coverup fell apart. Three other officers were wounded.
Over the next year and a half, investigations forced onto the Houston police department by citizens, the FBI, the Tuttle family, and the Harris County Prosecutor, unraveled a story of corruption and lack of accountability that lead to the Tuttle deaths.
Two officers, Goins and his Partner, Steven Bryant, retired from the department, and were charged with both state and federal crimes. Hundreds of cases were brought into doubt. Harris County District Attorney, Kim Ogg announced a thorough, deep investigation into the Houston PD, especially the Narcotics squad 15, which had conducted the raid.
Now, a year and a half after the murder of Dennis Tuttle and Rhogena Nicholas, a grand jury has come out with indictments for four more officers. All of the officers retired since the investigation into the raid began.
Prosecutors charged six officers, including Goins and Bryant, on 1 July, 2020.
The additional charges are primarily for overcharges of overtime, false claims about money for informants, and tampering with government records. Several of the charges are based on phone records which show what was claimed on government forms could not have happened, given the location records from the phones. One officer characterized them as “paperwork violations”. Small violations led to a sloppy attitude about following the rules. Many would say overcharging on overtime is not a small violation. Then Dennis and Rhogena paid the price.
The Harris County Grand Jury brought indictments for 21 felonies for the six officers on 31 July, 2020. Those officers and the indictments are:
Officer Gerald Goines – Two counts of felony murder, a first-degree felony punishable by a possible sentence of life in prison. Four counts of tampering with a government record (search warrants) a third-degree felony, one count of aggregate theft by a public servant between $2,500 and $30,000, a third-degree felony. Third-degree felonies are punishable by two to 10 years in prison.
Officer Steven Bryant – One count of aggregate theft by a public servant between $2,500 and $30,000, a third-degree felony.
Two counts of tampering with a government record (confidential informant forms which contain details of money allegedly given to informants for services or buying drugs) a state jail felony. State jail felonies are punishable by six months to two years in state jail
Sgt. Clemente Reyna – Three counts of tampering with a government record (confidential informant forms) a state jail felony. One count of aggregate theft by a public servant between $2,500 and $30,000, a third-degree felony.
Sgt. Thomas Wood – One count of tampering with a government record (confidential informant form) a state jail felony. One count of aggregate theft by a public servant between $2,500 and $30,000, a third-degree felony.
Lt. Robert Gonzales – One charge of misapplication of fiduciary property, a 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 – two charges of tampering with a government record, (an offense report and a confidential informant form) state jail felonies, one charge of aggregate theft by a public servant, a third degree felony.
Three of the officers charged were in management. The charges are, essentially, for not doing their job, and signing off on paperwork which they had not checked. The paperwork turned out to be false, thus, potentially fraudulent.
Prosecutor Kim Ogg made several comments on an interview on KHOU-11, on 31 July, which indicate the investigation has moved into what she previously called the third phase. Ogg said:
“This is the product of longterm, and at least within this squad, widespread corruption. ”
“We are going to go where the evidence leads on this shooting.” From khou interview on Youtube.
Ogg stated the prosecution is looking for answers to particular questions.
Why this happened?
Why these people?
Why so many shots?
Those questions have been on the minds of many observers for the last year and a half.
The initial gathering of forensic evidence has been called into question. There were two more evidence gathering teams at the scene, months later. There was a private forensic team, then a team from the Texas rangers. Members of the grand jury later insisted on seeing the scene for themselves.
Large city police departments have long had reputations for corruption, especially narcotics and vice departments. The temptations are more than many officers can withstand, especially over decades.
The digital revolution is undercutting the elements that made corruption possible. Digital recordings are usually considered more reliable than police testimony. Anyone can digitally record, anywhere, almost anytime.
What used to be fairly reliably anonymous, no longer is so. Cell phones track positions nearly everywhere. Many cars have GPS trackers.
Even without phones, all the other devices that record images and sounds are available to a competent government investigator. Surveillance cameras, doorbell cameras, and the ever more common body camera, all offer more information to digest, information which is less fallible than human eyes and memory.
Police can no longer rely on the political machine to cover for them, or for the Media to kill stories of corruption that implicate the media’s political favorites.
Corruption at the level of the individual officer, or even the small unit, is becoming much more difficult.
The anti-corruption effect only happens where basic freedoms, such as those guaranteed by the First, Fourth and Fifth Amendments are respected and flourish. All three are under serious attack.
About Dean Weingarten:
Dean Weingarten has been a peace officer, a military officer, was on the University of Wisconsin Pistol Team for four years, and was first certified to teach firearms safety in 1973. He taught the Arizona concealed carry course for fifteen years until the goal of Constitutional Carry was attained. He has degrees in meteorology and mining engineering, and retired from the Department of Defense after a 30 year career in Army Research, Development, Testing, and Evaluation.