12 officers, 2 sergeants obtain legal representation in wake of Harding Street raid
HOUSTON – Twelve officers and two sergeants are currently being represented by the union as a result of the deadly botched raid on Harding Street, according to the Houston Police Officers Union.
The process of officers securing legal representation is normal in these cases, but the total number thus far is raising some eyebrows.
"Based on the number of people ... it looks like it's going to be an extremely thorough investigation," Ken Magidson, the former U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Texas and former Harris County district attorney, said.
Magidson said complex investigations require a wide scope.
"It's not just looking at the people that may have committed any crimes, it's looking at people that may have obstructed justice or maybe hiding evidence they have," he said.
Officers relieved of duty
Three officers have been relieved of duty since the deadly raid.
Case agent Sgt. Gerald Goines along with Sgt. Steven Bryant have since retired.
Goines, of HPD’s Narcotics Division, is accused of lying to obtain the search warrant that led to the raid. Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg ordered the review of 1,400 cases connected to Goines after the botched raid.
Nearly 800 of Bryant's cases are under review by the Harris County District Attorney's Office.
As Channel 2 Investigates first reported in March, Angel August, a member of HPD's special investigations unit, also was relieved of duty. August was one of the first members of the special investigations unit notified of the botched raid. HPD records indicate she titled the initial offense report, "Justifiable homicide -- unfounded murder."
Grand jury hearing testimony
The union's confirmation that 14 of their own have secured legal representation comes a week after it was revealed that a federal grand jury testimony in the case was hearing testimony.
"Anytime a matter is being brought before a federal grand jury that means there is sufficient reason to believe there is a possibility of an indictment, that means there is evidence of criminal activity and they are looking to see if anyone committed that crime,” Magidson said.
The officers who were called to present themselves to the grand jury responded to a 911 call on Jan. 8, about three weeks before the raid at the Harding Street home.
The officers' testimony lasted about two to three hours last Wednesday.
No more testimony is scheduled for the immediate future, according to the Houston Police Officers Union, but a senior ranking officer is expected to testify in the coming weeks.
Investigators visit house
Investigators from the Harris County District Attorney’s Office and the Texas Rangers worked outside and inside the house on Harding Street for several hours last week.
The Rangers initially turned down an invitation to be at the home in early May to examine evidence collected by Michael Maloney, a private forensic investigator hired by the families.
KPRC 2 Investigates was there at that time and was also present Wednesday as the Rangers scanned the house with technology used to capture images and potential trajectory of bullets.
The union did not comment regarding 14 members of HPD being provided legal representation.
Michael Doyle, one of the attorneys representing the family of Rhogena Nicholas issued the following statement to Channel 2 Investigates in a call: “Everybody is entitled to a lawyer but that certainly speaks to the extent of the potential misconduct and how long it’s been going on.”
What happened on Jan. 28
The developments come nearly half a year after Rhogena Nicholas and Dennis Tuttle were killed at the Harding Street residence while Houston police were serving a drug warrant.
Houston police Chief Art Acevedo said officers raided the Harding Street residence in the Gloverdale neighborhood as part of a drug investigation. He said that when the officers entered the home, they were met by an aggressive dog, which was shot by one officer.
The chief said that Tuttle walked out of a backroom in the home and used a .357 revolver to start shooting at the officers, wounding one of them. Acevedo said that as the wounded officer fell on a living room couch, Nicholas tried to grab his weapon.
Officers returned fire, killing both Tuttle and Nicholas, Acevedo said.
Five Houston police officers were injured in the shootout. The last of the injured officers were released from the hospital on Tuesday. It's not clear which officer was released, but here is the list of officers who were injured in the shootout.
A timeline of the Harding Street investigation is below:
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