'They're far from drug dealers': Neighbors confused after deadly shootout

By Jacob Rascon - Anchor-Reporter

HOUSTON - The Houston Police Department position is clear: 7800 Harding St. was a drug house where black tar heroin was sold -- and where the homeowner opened fire on, and injured, several undercover officers on Monday.

But something doesn't add up for those who know the neighborhood and knew the suspects best. 

Robert Antu moved across the street from Dennis Tuttle about 30 years ago, before he was married, and considered Tuttle a dear friend.

"If he would have known it was police, he would have never shot," Antu said. "No way. He obeyed the law. I tell you, he was a straight-up guy."

Houston police said Tuttle emerged from a back room of the house and shot four undercover officers after they broke open his front door and shot and killed his pit bull that had charged at them.

The officers returned fire, killing Tuttle and his wife, Rhogena Nicholas, who police said approached an officer during the shootout and reached for his weapon.

"(Nicholas) called me and she told me that she loved me" the morning before the shooting, said neighbor Esmerelda Becerra said, nearly in tears.

Both women had cancer and were friends for 21 years, Becerra said.

"Do you know how I felt?" said Becerra, crying. "There's no more tears in me. I went over there to go leave flowers. I almost fainted."

"They didn't deal drugs from out of that house," said another neighbor, who grew up with Tuttle and Nicholas. "They're not those type of people."

In a search of the house after the shootout, Houston police found marijuana, an unknown white powdery substance, several shotguns and a rifle. 

Tuttle was once a Marine who struggled with a variety of physical and mental health issues, many neighbors and Tuttle's sister said.

"I want to say that our prayers are with the officers and their families who were affected," said Elizabeth Ferrari, Tuttle's sister.

She drove down from the Dallas area after she heard the news. 

"It’s a very tough situation," Ferrari said. "I do not know any details other than I came here hoping that it was incorrect."

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