HPD Chief Acevedo provides update on shootout, Gamaldi's 'over-the-top' comments

HOUSTON – Houston police Chief Art Acevedo provided updates Thursday about the shootout earlier this week that injured five HPD officers.

Acevedo thanked the community for its prayers after Monday’s officer-involved shooting at 7815 Harding St. in the Gloverdale neighborhood.

Four officers were wounded in an exchange of gunfire with 59-year-old Dennis Tuttle while authorities were serving a search warrant at the home. Acevedo said that when one of the wounded officers fell on a living room couch, 58-year-old Rhogena Nicholas reached for his gun. Officers shot and killed both Tuttle and Nicholas, Acevedo said.

Acevedo reiterated the fact that the warrant was served at the correct house.

Acevedo said police received an anonymous call from a woman on Jan. 8, alleging her daughter was at the house. Acevedo said the caller claimed the home had both guns and heroin inside, alleging her daughter had been abusing heroin. A patrol officer responded to the call but did not see anyone outside the house, Acevedo said.

READ: Heroin sold, weapons seen at house where police shootout occurred, warrant claims

The patrol officer then contacted the woman who made the initial call. Acevedo said she reiterated her claim that heroin and guns were inside the home. The officer filed a report and notified HPD’s narcotics division, Acevedo said. The narcotics division launched its investigation, as outlined in a search warrant.

The warrant alleges a confidential informant was able to buy heroin from a man at the house on Jan. 27. Acevedo told reporters Thursday the substance was later tested and confirmed to be heroin. The raid occurred Jan. 28, although investigators did not recover any additional heroin from the home. Investigators uncovered a small amount of marijuana and a powdery substance, Acevedo said.

VIDEO: Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo holds news briefing on shootout

The wide-ranging briefing also touched on a conversation Acevedo said he had with Tuttle's brother, who lives in Austin. Acevedo said he expressed condolences to Tuttle's family and asked Tuttle's brother to remember what he stands for -- seeking the truth.

Acevedo said the investigation is ongoing -- both criminally and internally. He said that body-worn camera footage has already started being reviewed.

Acevedo said that there was only one officer-involved shooting while the narcotics division was serving warrants from the beginning of 2014 through the end of 2018. He said that the narcotics division executed 1,736 warrants in the five-year stretch.

Acevedo also addressed comments made by Joe Gamaldi, president of the Houston Police Officers’ Union.

The night of the shooting, an animated Gamaldi told reporters that officers are sick and tired of “dirtbags” trying to kill them.

“Enough is enough,” Gamaldi said.

Since then, Gamaldi’s remarks have gone viral, with people both supporting and decrying his words.

Acevedo said Gamaldi's comments were "over the top." He said Gamaldi's emotions got the best of him. Acevedo said that Gamaldi and the HPOU do not run the department; he does.

Acevedo said the shootout on Monday had nothing to do with what Gamaldi was talking about.

Gamaldi told KPRC2: “I don’t think my emotions got the best of me. I was vocalizing what every single officer at the hospital was feeling, what every police officer in the department was feeling.”

Gamaldi also said he was speaking about a specific group, not most Houstonians, who support police officers, saying his comments were directed to “only those who seek to drive a wedge between us and the community we love.”

Gamaldi also took to social media to defend his position. He said he was at a City Council meeting defending the HPD budget when he heard that he was "being thrown under the bus" by Acevedo. He went on to say it's a "sad state of affairs when defending (the) reputation of the brave men and women of law enforcement is frowned upon by a few."

Of the four officers who were shot, two remain in the hospital. The fifth officer, who injured his knee during the encounter, also remains hospitalized but should be released soon. The case officer, who has been shot two other times while in the line of duty, was upgraded from critical to fair condition.

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