Nearly 4 years after deadly botched raid on Harding Street, still no trial for former HPD officer who faces 2 murder charges

“This is a great place to be a bad apple in public service,” said the attorney for the family of one victim

HOUSTON – Nearly 250 miles separate Natchitoches, Louisiana from 7815 Harding Street in southeast Houston.

However, KPRC 2 Investigates recently traveled to the tiny Louisiana town to meet with the mother of Rhogena Nicholas.

One of two homeowners who was shot and killed as the Houston Police Department attempted to execute a search warrant on Jan. 28, 2019.

“I just wonder why,” said her mother, Jo Ann Nicholas. “They weren’t violent. They’ve never been violent.”

In the hours following the botched drug raid that resulted in the deaths of Rhogena and her husband Dennis Tuttle, HPD claimed the duo was violent drug dealers.

“Narcotics activity was going on at that residence, specifically the sale of black tar heroin,” said former HPD Chief Art Acevedo.

“I knew it wasn’t true,” said Jo Ann when reflecting on how her only daughter was portrayed to Houstonians and the nation.

A few weeks later, police investigators admitted the raid was built on lies.

KPRC 2 Investigates first uncovered HPD’s internal investigation detailing the lengths that Gerald Goines went to secure the bogus warrant.

Seven months later, the HPD veteran was charged with two counts of felony murder by the Harris County District Attorney’s Office.

Steven Bryant, an officer who had worked with Goines for years, was also charged with tampering with a government record.

The federal investigation into Harding Street led to additional charges, and while Bryant pleaded guilty to falsifying government records, Goines has yet to face a jury with the feds or Harris County.

“She needs to take care of this mess that is going on down there,” said Nicholas in reference to the DA’s office. “Take care of it and serve justice.”

The family’s attorney in the civil case, Mike Doyle, tells KPRC 2 Investigates, “This is a great place to be a bad apple in public service,” in reference to the lack of inaction in Houston.

Doyle says the families have come to one conclusion about justice being served in the deaths of their loved ones.

“After all these years, the family knows this is about how long can they delay this.”

The President of the Houston Police Officers Union, Douglas Griffith, says there is no excuse for a delay.

“There is no reason anybody in Harris County should wait four to five years for justice. We should be having trials within a year of the evidence being presented and going to court,” said Griffith outside of the union’s headquarters.

When asked if he believes it sends the wrong message to Houstonians? “I believe it does,” said Griffith.

The union is not paying for Goines’ defense team.

“Did someone lie? Yes. Will he pay the price for that? Yes,” said Griffith.

However, he also believes the narrative that came out hours after the death of Nicholas and Tuttle. “I feel sorry for those two people that were killed but I still stand by my belief that they were drug dealers, and they fired upon our officers first, and our officers reacted,” Griffith added.

As for how many times HPD or the city has made contact in the aftermath of her daughter’s death?

“Zero,” said Jo Ann while holding up a circle.

At 88 years of age, she is pessimistic after everything she has seen in the last four years.

“Do you think in your lifetime you will see justice for your daughter?,” we asked.

“I’m afraid not,” she replied.

It should be noted that the City of Houston already has allocated over $1,000,000 to battle the Nicholas and Tuttle families in the civil case.

Jo Ann and her daughter-in-law made one thing very clear during our visit to Natchitoches, they are not going away.


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