Shot that killed woman during Harding St. raid fired outside home, attorney says

HOUSTON – Attorneys for the family of Rhogena Nicholas filed a petition Thursday to investigate claims made after a Houston Police Department Jan. 28 at a home on Harding Street.

Nicholas and her husband, Dennis Tuttle, were killed during what police described as a gun battle with Tuttle. Police said Nicholas was killed while she was trying to wrestle a gun away from an officer.

However, attorneys for the Nicholas family call into question many of the details released by the Police Department about how the botched raid unfolded.

In a copy of the complaint obtained by KPRC 2 Investigates, the attorney stated: “The Nicholas Family seek to investigate a potential claim against the City arising from the Harding Street Incident and the untimely loss of Rhogena Nicholas. The Nicholas Family wishes to proceed with further legal action if the claims would be fully justified in fact and law.”

The Petition for Deposition to Investigate Claims is pursuant to Rule 202 of the Texas Rules for Civil Procedure.

DOCUMENT: Read the petition filed by the Nicholas family attorney

Here's a closer look at what is in the 23-page document, which contained the results of an independent investigation conducted by the family’s attorney.

1. Rhogena Nicholas killed by outside bullet

An image taken from a report released by the attorney for the family of Rhogena Nicholas on July 25, 2019, shows the trajectory of the bullet that killed her during a police raid, according to an independent investigation.

The independent forensic investigator hired by the Nicholas family concluded: “Rhogena Nicholas was fatally struck by a bullet from a weapon fired outside the Harding Street home by a person shooting from a position where the shooter could not have seen Ms. Nicholas at the time she was fatally shot.”
The document also included exhibit renderings produced from the investigator’s reconstruction.

2. Two shots fired from within inches of interior walls away from homeowners’ bodies

An image taken from a report released by the attorney for the family of Rhogena Nicholas on July 25, 2019, shows a bullet hole in a wall at a Houston home after a deadly police raid.

According to the document: “An unidentified person held a weapon against the inner dining room wall and fired 2 shots into the inner dining room wall towards the kitchen (or within 2-3 inches of the inner dining room wall, as confirmed by lab testing of swab samples) (approximately 21 feet from the front foot and 14 feet from where Dennis Tuttle was recovered).”

Considering these two bullet holes, the family is also requesting an inventory of locations and cartridges spent in the raid, as well as “medical and ballistic documentation of the wounds sustained by the HPD personnel during the Harding Street Incident by gunshot or otherwise, as well as ballistic materials that may have been recovered during medical intervention and from protective vests worn during the Harding Street incident.”

The family goes on to request additional inventories involving the weapons used and bullet counts. Attorneys stated, “Given the indications that the City’s story does not line up with the physical facts at the Harding Street Home, the Nicholas Family believes the Court has more than sufficient basis to order the depositions requested to investigate the wrongful death, civil rights, and other claims arising from the Harding Street Incident.”

3. Family’s request for 3 specific depositions

The family is requesting for the deposition of a representative of the Houston Police Department, the former head of HPD’s Narcotics Division Capt. Paul Follis and Lt. Marsha Todd, the supervisor over HPD’s Narcotics Squad 15, which included officers Gerald Goines and Stephen Bryant.

Near the end of the lawsuit, the attorneys representing the family wrote, “The need to look further into the actual practices within HPD that resulted in the Harding Street Incident has never been more urgent.”

Watch the full announcement below: