HOUSTON - Affidavits obtained Friday alleged that “material untruths or lies” were used to get a search warrant for a southeast Houston home last month where a raid turned into a deadly shootout, according to Houston police Chief Art Acevedo.
The chief said that he knows a crime has already been committed as part of obtaining the original search warrant that led to the Jan. 28 raid and shootout at 7815 Harding St. that left five officers injured and two suspects dead.
The affidavits obtained by Channel 2 Investigates on Friday were connected to the internal investigation of the shooting.
According to the documents, a sergeant with the Houston Police Department’s Special Investigations Unit stated that he and his partner were unable to track down any confidential informants involved in a drug buy at the home of 58-year-old Rhogena Nicholas and 59-year-old Dennis Tuttle. Both were killed in the shooting which also resulted in the shooting of four HPD officers. A fifth officer injured his knee in the melee.
In the warrant, the sergeant says that Officer Gerald Goines, of HPD’s Narcotics Division, provided officers, including a high-ranking narcotics division supervisor, two different names of confidential informants. The warrant stated the two officers, “interviewed all of the confidential informants and all denied making a buy for Goines from the Harding Street residence, and ever purchasing narcotics from Nicholas or Tuttle.”
“We know for a fact that, more than likely, the investigating officer will be charged with a serious crime at some point,” Acevedo said.
A spokesman for the Harris County District Attorney's Office said the case will be presented to a grand jury to determine if any criminal charges should be filed.
Acevedo said the documents showed that his department is involved in an extensive investigation of the events that led to the shooting.
“The community will absolutely know the good, the bad and the ugly,” Acevedo said.
The chief said that he would urge patience as the investigation proceeds, and asked the community to refrain from painting the department with a “broad brush” because of the actions of one officer.
“We will take as much time as we need to get to the bottom of this case,” Acevedo said.
Channel 2 Legal Analyst, Brian Wice said the new documents most certainly put the officers in legal jeopardy.
“There is a specific part of the penal code for rogue cops who believe they can perjure themselves,” Wice said.
Wice said aggravated perjury, official oppression and tampering with a government document are among the possible charges for police officers who purposely lie on sworn statements.
He said tampering with a government document and aggravated perjury are third-degree felonies punishable by 2 to 10 years behind bars.
Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner released a statement on the internal investigation:
“I endorse a full and thorough investigation into this matter to determine what did and did not take place, and I stress that this be completed as soon as possible. I will refrain from commenting about it until I have all facts before me.”
The Houston Police Officers' Union released the following statement about Friday's developments:
"On February 7, 2019, the HPOU released a statement that no further comments on this case would occur until the case agent was able to be interviewed. We believe that interview took place on February 13th and we just heard some facts confirmed at the Chief’s news conference, which are extremely concerning. Such actions, if true, would be extremely disturbing and would not be a reflection of the many men and women of HPD who do an incredible job every day, including those who have worked tirelessly since the shooting ensuring that no stone goes unturned.
"We stand by our assertion from February 7th that the house on Harding Street was not selected at random and we did have information that narcotics were being used/sold at that location. Clearly the officer at the center of this investigation, like any suspect in a criminal case, is innocent until proven guilty. However, at the end of the day, we are all law enforcement officers and the law must be equally enforced against anyone who is proven to be guilty of breaking it.
"Regardless of any criminal investigation, the HPOU will support and participate in any review and changes to policy/procedures that can prevent an incident like this from ever happening again. If these allegations are proven, all HPD officers will have to work to regain the trust of the citizens we serve. Our pledge is the same we have made to you on many occasions: we will use every bit of our energy to provide the most professional law enforcement services to the citizens of Houston."
Doug Murphy, President Harris County Criminal Lawyers Association, released the following statement:
“I think the focus needs to be on the great tragedy of innocent people being killed and officers being shot solely because an officer lied.
"Moving forward every case he handled is going to be under very strict scrutiny and very well likely to have evidence legally thrown out and the cases overturned. Unfortunately, it’s not uncommon for some narcotics officers to embellish facts in an aggressive pursuit to catch drug dealers.
"However, it’s another thing to blatantly, outright lie and cause innocent people to die. All the officers involved in the lies and nefarious conduct need to be held legally accountable to ensure that this hopefully never happens again.”
Houston Mayoral candidate Tony Buzbee released the following statement:
"If someone screwed up they must be held accountable. That's how it must be, period. But I would hope that in the event there was a mistake, we not paint our entire police force with a broad brush or jump to conclusions about our police. They have a tough job. I grieve for all the families involved."
Houston Mayoral candidate Bill King issued the following statement:
“This entire situation is deeply unsettling and tragic because it has resulted in the death of two Houstonians and needlessly put our officers' lives in jeopardy. It's obvious this is a failure of leadership from the top. Houstonians deserve to know when Sylvester Turner and Art Acevedo learned about these troubling allegations, and how long this would have been kept a secret had the media not uncovered the affidavit?
"It's clear there needs to be a third-party, independent investigation by the FBI or the Texas Rangers to determine what led to the deadly raid and to ensure something like this never happens again."
Channel 2 Investigates is still digging through the new records and will continue to update this breaking story throughout the day.
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