Houston police chief says department will scrap no-knock warrants in wake of fatal drug raid

PHOTO: Law enforcement personnel work at the scene of a shooting where five Houston police officers were reported shot, Jan. 28, 2019, in Houston, Texas.PlayLoren Elliott/Getty Images
WATCH Houston police chief to eliminate 'no knock' warrants

Facing an angry crowd and calls for murder charges to be brought against an allegedly corrupt narcotics agent, Houston's police chief announced his department will no longer conduct no-knock warrants in the wake of a drug raid that left a married couple dead and four officers shot.

Amid people shouting for his resignation and signs reading "HPD Murdered this Family," Police Chief Art Acevedo asked for patience Monday night as his department investigates the Jan. 28 drug raid that was executed with a warrant found to have been based on "material untruths or lies."

PHOTO: Law enforcement personnel work at the scene of a shooting where five Houston police officers were reported shot, Jan. 28, 2019, in Houston, Texas. Loren Elliott/Getty Images
Law enforcement personnel work at the scene of a shooting where five Houston police officers were reported shot, Jan. 28, 2019, in Houston, Texas.

Acevedo, who was sworn in as Houston's police chief in November 2016, said he would not resign.

"Under my watch, we uncovered it," he said of the apparently bad warrant that led to the deaths of Dennis Tuttle, 59, and his 58-year-old wife, Rhogena Nicholas. "Under my watch, we haven't covered it up."

The chief was interrupted by a woman yelling, "You allowed cops to go in and kill two innocent people. We want to know what's going to be done about that."

The meeting was organized by the Greater Houston Coalition of Justice — a police watchdog group — and followed a news conference Acevedo held Friday in which he announced that serious problems were found with the no-knock warrant obtained by veteran narcotics agent Gerald Goines.

Goines, 54, was one of the four drug-team members shot when they raided a house where Goines claimed a confidential informant had made two purchases of black tar heroin. A fifth officer suffered a knee injury while storming the house.

PHOTO: Houston Police Department chief Art Acevedo testifies before the House Judiciary Committee hearing on gun violence, on Capitol Hill, Feb. 6, 2019. Jose Luis Magana/AP, FILE
Houston Police Department chief Art Acevedo testifies before the House Judiciary Committee hearing on gun violence, on Capitol Hill, Feb. 6, 2019.

In an affidavit filed in Harris County District Court on Thursday by Houston internal affairs detectives investigating the raid, it is stated that the confidential informant who Goines said conducted the drug buys on his instruction claimed he never even went to the house.

"We know that there's already a crime that's been committed," Acevedo said. "It's a serious crime when we prepare a document to go into somebody's home, into the sanctity that is somebody's home, it has to be truthful, it has to be honest, it has to be factual. We know already there's a crime that's been committed. There's high probability there will be a criminal charge."

Goines, a 34-year veteran of the department who was previously shot twice in the line of duty, has been relieved of his duties. Acevedo said a second undercover officer was also relieved of his duties, but investigators do not believe he was aware that Goines allegedly concocted information to obtain the no-knock warrant.

Many residents at Monday night's meeting said Goines should face murder charges.

"If you want to seek justice, in this case, there is a process. It is the justice system," Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg told the crowd.

"We will take the investigative materials, all of the evidence. We will review it. We will present it to a grand jury," Ogg said. "That's the process we use in the civil rights cases and that's because we do work for you, the people."

Acevedo said his department is moving to end no-knock warrants, in which police are granted permission by a judge to bust into targeted homes without warning if probable cause of a crime being committed has been previously established.

The chief also said he is equipping undercover officers involved in drug raids with bodycams after facing criticism that agents involved in the January raid did not have the video recording equipment.

"Nobody is as pissed off as me," Acevedo told the crowd. "There's a lot of good work going on. One or two people have taken relationships and taken community relationships back decades, and it pisses me off."

During the questionable drug raid, Goines, the lead investigator on the case, broke open the front door and a 33-year-old officer armed with a shotgun entered the residence and was immediately attacked by a pit bull, Acevedo said a day after the raid.

He said that the officer being attacked shot and killed the dog.

Tuttle allegedly charged from the back of the house firing a .357-caliber Magnum revolver at the officer, hitting him in the shoulder, Acevedo said.

He said Nicholas was shot and killed when she allegedly tried to grab the wounded officer's shotgun. Tuttle, according to Acevedo, was killed by police after shooting three other officers, including Goines, who suffered a bullet wound to the neck and remains in a hospital.

Police recovered two shotguns and three rifles from the residence and seized marijuana and a white powder they believe to be either cocaine or the powerful synthetic opioid fentanyl, Acevedo said at the time. But officers did not seize any black tar heroin, he said.