HOUSTON – Six former Houston police narcotics officers, including Gerald Goines and Steven Bryant, face new felony charges after being accused of falsifying documents about drug payments to informants. The new charges were brought by Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg as part of the investigation surrounding the botched Jan. 2019 raid at a home on Harding Street that left two dead.
On Jan. 28, 2019, Rhogena Nicholas and Dennis Tuttle were killed when several police officers burst into their home at 7815 Harding Street. After officers shot the couple’s dog, Tuttle began firing at officers and they returned fire, killing both Nicholas and Tuttle, officials say. Five HPD officers were also hurt in the gunfire.
Besides Goines and Bryant, the new officers facing charges are former sergeants Clemente Reyna and Thomas Wood, former lieutenant Robert Gonzales, and former senior officer, Hodgie Armstrong, Ogg’s office wrote in a press release.
Five of the six officers were charged with falsifying government records during narcotics investigations. A total of 15 felony charges were filed Wednesday.
The new charges come as the Civil Rights Division of the DA’s office is reviewing thousands of cases handled by Squad 15 of HPD’s Narcotics Division that was involved in the botched raid.
“Goines and others could never have preyed on our community the way they did without the participation of their supervisors; every check and balance in place to stop this type of behavior was circumvented,” Ogg said. “This was graft and greed at every step in the process, and prosecutors are making their way through the evidence one incident at a time.”
The new charges indicated a “pattern and practice of lying and deceit,” Ogg said. As investigations continue, Ogg said she believes even more charges are likely.
Allegations against the officers include using false information to get judges to sign search warrants, falsifying timesheets, putting false information in offense reports, and falsifying government documents to steal, prosecutors said.
Ogg’s office went on to say the former supervisors signed records saying the witnessed street-level officers pay money to informant but investigations into the evidence revealed they were not actually present at the time.
“This investigation is peeling back layers of a narcotics-enforcement system gone array,” Ogg said. “It calls into question the way HPD has been enforcing narcotics laws, especially in communities of color. The lion’s share of arrests made by this squad were minority men for low-level drug crimes.”
Here is a break down of the charges:
Officer Gerald Goines – Three new charges of third-degree felony tampering with a government record (search warrants) and one charge of third-degree felony theft by a public servant. If convicted, the tampering charge carries a penalty of between 2-10 years in prison and the theft charge carries a fine of between $2,500 and $30,000.
Goines was previously charged with felony murder and tampering with government records.
Officer Steven Bryant –Two state felony charges of tampering with a government record (confidential informant forms which contain details of money allegedly given to informants for services or buying drugs) and one third-degree felony charge of theft by a public servant. If convicted, the tampering charges carry a penalty of between 6 months and 2 years in jail. The theft charge, if convicted, carries a fine of between $2,500 and $30,000.
Bryant was previously charged with tampering with government records.
Sgt. Clemente Reyna – Three state felony charges of tampering with a government record (confidential informant forms) and one third-degree felony charge of theft by a public servant.
Sgt. Thomas Wood – One state felony charge of tampering with a government record (confidential informant form) and one third-degree felony charge of theft by a public servant.
Lt. Robert Gonzales – One state felony charge of misapplication of fiduciary property for the reckless handling of HPD money. Gonzales held a position of trust and was required to verify and authorize any expenditures of up to $2,500, officials wrote in a press release.
Officer Hodgie Armstrong - One state felony charge of tampering with a government record (offense report).
Prosecutors are also reviewing cases to determine if defendants were wrongfully convicted after being arrested by Goines.
Houston police response
In light of the new charges, the Houston Police Department tweeted a statement from Chief Art Acevedo.
“The Harris County District Attorney’s Office has not briefed the police department on the charges recently announced against former HPD employees who separated from the department more than a year ago,” the statement reads. “We have cooperated fully throughout the investigative process and will continue to do so.”
The Houston Police Officers Union issued a scathing response to the new charges as well. In a statement, union officials called Ogg “the most corrupt District Attorney in the history of Harris County.”
“It does not take 18 months to investigate a ‘tampering with a government document’ case. This is simply a distraction from the repeated failures of her office and continued negative attention which she seemingly invites on a daily basis,” the union wrote in part.
HPOU went on to claim that they had “on good authority that immediately following the demonstrations over George Floyd’s death, she (Ogg) approached her entire civil rights division, and instructed them to ‘indict as many cops as you can’ (whether justified or not) by the end of June in order to capitalize on the political climate.”
The HPOU's response to the news that the most corrupt District Attorney in the history of Harris County, Kim Ogg, has charged four retired Houston Police Officers.— Houston Police Officers' Union (@HPOUTX) July 1, 2020
Full statement below: pic.twitter.com/1j4bt5I1Ho
KPRC 2 has covered the botched Harding Street raid extensively. Find all our coverage here.