Top stories of 2019 (#5): Harding Street raid prompts extensive investigation, multiple federal charges


HOUSTONEditor’s note: Through the end of the year, is looking back at the biggest stories of the year, based on what was most popular on our website this year.

#7: Tropical Storm Imelda slips in, causes major flooding and kills at least 5 people

#6: Astros fall in seven games, Cole leaves but Verlander wins Cy Young

A botched January raid at a home on Harding Street led to a months-long investigation and three people charged in connection with the death of Rhogena Nicholas and Dennis Tuttle.

Two former Houston Police Department officers, Gerald Goines and Steven Bryant, and the neighbor who called 911, Patricia Garcia, are all accused of federal crimes. Goines and Bryant also face state charges.

What happened?

On Jan. 28, Nicholas and Tuttle were killed when several police officers stormed into their home at 7815 Harding St. After officers shot the couple’s dog, police said, Tuttle began firing at officers. Investigators said officers returned fire, killing both Nicholas and Tuttle. Five police officers were also injured in the raid.

About two weeks earlier, Garcia, a neighbor of the Harding Street home, made a series of 911 calls that investigators said set off a chain of events that led to the botched raid. Investigators said Garcia told dispatchers that her daughter was inside the home with heavily armed drug dealers. She is accused of falsely reporting that the people in the home were doing crack cocaine and heroin.

The fallout

Two days after the raid, the search warrant that authorized it was released. The warrant claimed that drugs were being sold at the home and some were purchased by a confidential informant. A “large quantity of plastic baggies” of drugs was also reported at the home, according to the warrant.

An inventory of the items seized in the raid released on Feb. 8 included two shotguns, two rifles, 18 grams of marijuana and an unknown white powder, which was later determined to be heroin, according to Acevedo.

On Feb. 20, Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg said she had ordered the review of 1,400 cases connected to Goines, who is accused of lying to obtain the search warrant that led to the Harding Street raid. Twenty-eight of those cases were active.

About a month later, Ogg announced that an additional 800 cases connected to Bryant would also be reviewed. Bryant was the first officer relieved of duty in the wake of the raid. Twenty-seven pending cases involving officers Goines and Bryant were eventually dropped.

The HPD investigation into the shooting was completed in May 2019.

The FBI also launched a civil rights investigation into the botched raid in February.

Who was charged?

Goines was indicted on seven counts, including one count of filing a false police report, two counts of deprivation of rights under color of law, two counts of destruction, alteration or falsification of records in a federal investigation and three counts of tampering with a witness, victim or an informant. If convicted of federal charges, Goines faces up to life in prison. Each count carries a potential 20-year sentence.

The government has argued that Goines lied repeatedly to get what he wanted. He is accused of entering the Hardig Street home on fake intel and making a false police report, claiming an informant bought drugs from the home one day before the raid.

Goines was secretly released from the Harris County Jail in early December after being granted $150,000 bail.

Bryant is charged with falsifying records in a federal investigation.

Garcia is accused of reporting false information and faces a 5-year prison term if she is convicted. She appeared in federal court on Nov. 21 and entered a not guilty plea. She was granted bond with a list of restrictions. Her next court date is set for Jan. 13, 2020.

"We cannot change what happened, can’t change it,” Acevedo said. “We had an officer lie about his actions that led up to the issuance of the warrant, and for that, I apologize to that family.”

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