Houston narcotics officer connected to raid-turned-shootout relieved of duty

By Robert Arnold - Investigative Reporter, Aaron Barker - Senior Digital Editor

HOUSTON - A Houston police officer who is connected to last week’s raid that turned into a shootout was temporarily relieved of duty Thursday.

The Jan. 28 raid at a home on Harding Street in southeast Houston’s Gloverdale neighborhood ended with two people dead and five officers injured.

According to a statement released by the Houston Police Officers’ Union, the officer who was relieved of his duties was not among the officers who were injured.

“We have confirmed that at least one narcotics officer has been relieved of duty due to ongoing questions that cannot be answered until the case agent is interviewed,” HPOU’s statement read.

The case agent was among the injured officers.

“Unfortunately, his gunshot wound has resulted in him being incapacitated while surgeries continue,” HPOU’s statement read. “Any assumptions or conclusions made prior to the interview taking place are just assumptions.”

Investigators said officers were executing a search warrant at the home as part of a drug investigation. They said that as the officers entered the home they were met by gunfire from 59-year-old Dennis Tuttle. They said that when one of the wounded officers fell on a couch, 58-year-old Rhogena Nicholas reached for his gun. Officers shot and killed both Tuttle and Nicholas, they said.

Four officers were shot and the fifth officer suffered a knee injury. All but two of the officers have been released from the hospital.

Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg said in a written statement that a grand jury will ultimately decide if charges are filed in connection with the incident.

“Our Civil Rights Division prosecutors are currently working with the Houston Police Department’s special investigation team to look at every aspect of this incident,” Ogg's statement read. “As is our policy, every shooting by a police officer -- in every instance -- is presented to a grand jury to determine if any criminal charges are warranted.”

According to HPOU’s statement, most officers who are relieved of duty quickly return to work once an investigation is complete.

None of the officers connected to the raid have been identified.

HPOU’s full statement follows:

“Rumors continue to spread around the shooting last month on Harding Street where five police officers were injured and two suspects died. 

“To be clear, officers were not on the wrong street and entry at that location was not made at random. We would refer you to the call slip from that location on January 8, over two weeks prior to the shooting.

“We have confirmed that at least one narcotics officer has been relieved of duty due to ongoing questions that cannot be answered until the case agent is interviewed.

“The department made the decision to relieve the officer of duty while a thorough investigation continues. Nearly all officers relieved of duty return to work quickly after an investigation is complete.”

“Rumors will undoubtedly continue until the case agent is able to be interviewed. Unfortunately, his gunshot wound has resulted in him being incapacitated while surgeries continue. Any assumptions of conclusions made prior to the interview taking place, are just assumptions.

“The HPOU will have no further comment on this case until that case agent can be interviewed.”

Houston police Chief Art Acevedo released the following statement:

“When an officer-involved shooting (OIS) occurs at HPD, we consider it a legal and moral obligation to conduct a thorough and impartial investigation into the circumstances leading up to and resulting in the OIS.

"There is a lot of speculation as to the circumstances regarding this OIS at 7815 Harding Street, but we urge everyone to let the investigation take its proper course and proceed to conclusion.

"As I said last Thursday to our community, we will leave no stone unturned to determine the good, the bad and the ugly. We owe this to the officers involved and their families, the deceased suspects’ families, and the community we serve. The department is working closely with the Harris County District Attorney’s Office in our pursuit of the facts.

"I know that in addition to the OIS itself, many have questions regarding the circumstances surrounding the search warrant. All of these questions are part of our ongoing criminal and administrative investigations. Rather than releasing piecemeal information, consistent with our commitment to transparency, we will report our findings at the conclusion of our investigations."

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