Houston, TX – Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo has announced that a veteran narcotics officer provided “some material untruths or lies” to obtain a search warrant that led to a deadly shootout in January.
Although police “had reason to investigate” the home of 59-year-old Dennis Tuttle and 58-year-old Rhogena Nicholas, the lead investigator allegedly concocted false information in the affidavit used to secure the warrant for the drug raid, Chief Acevedo said on Friday, according to NBC News.
Tuttle and Nicholas opened fire on police during the Jan. 28 raid, wounding four officers and injuring a fifth, before they were both fatally shot by police.
"Thus far it appears that there are some material untruths or lies in that affidavit, and that's a problem," Chief Acevedo confirmed. "That's totally unacceptable."
According to court documents, the allegedly untruthful information in the affidavit was provided by 54-year-old Officer Gerald Goines, a 34-year veteran of the department, ABC News reported.
Officer Goines, who was shot in the neck during the encounter, had been shot on two other occasions in the line of duty in the past.
In his application for the search warrant, Officer Goines claimed he had conducted a controlled buy of heroin at the home using a confidential informant.
He wrote that he sent the confidential informant inside the residence to buy the drugs on Jan. 27, The New York Times reported.
When the informant came out, he handed the suspected heroin over to Officer Goines, the affidavit read, according to ABC News.
In the wake of the deadly shootout, Officer Goines provided internal investigators with the informant’s name.
But when the investigators met with the informant, he said that he never worked with Officer Goines on that particular case.
The investigators went back and confronted the veteran officer with their findings, at which point he provided them with the name of a different informant, according to the internal investigation.
The investigators ultimately interviewed all of Officer Goines’ confidential informants.
“All denied making a buy for Goines from the residence located at 7815 Harding Street, and ever purchasing narcotics from Rhogena Nicholas or Dennis Tuttle,” the internal investigation read, according to ABC News.
Investigators are now in the midst of a full audit of all of the investigations he has been affiliated with.
Chief Acevedo said that Officer Goines has been placed on administrative leave, and that he will likely face criminal charges.
"We know that there's already a crime that's been committed," the chief 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…There's high probability there will be a criminal charge."
A second officer was also placed on administrative leave, but investigators do not believe that he was aware of Officer Goines’ alleged lies, Chief Acevedo said.
"When we're done, I guarantee you we will leave no stone unturned, and the truth will come out," the chief vowed. "We have 5,200 officers and I would ask that nobody paint our department with a broad brush. ...This is not indicative of the greater work that goes on here."
"I’m telling you, there's a lot of pissed off cops right now," he added, according to NBC News. "There are a lot of angry cops. Because when you violate that oath of office, you make it hard for 98, 99 percent of these cops that go out there every day."
Detectives first became aware that Tuttle and Nicholas were allegedly dealing drugs out of their home about two weeks before the search warrant was executed, after a concerned mother called 911 to report that her daughter was using drugs at the Harding Street residence, ABC News reported.
"We weren't there willy-nilly," Chief Acevedo noted. “This was not just an investigator deciding to go target a house – as far as we’ve determined so far – for no reason.”
The chief said a group of 15 undercover narcotics officers made entry to the home just before 5 p.m. on Jan. 28 and “immediately came under fire.”
“The first officer through the door, armed with a shotgun, was charged immediately by a very large pit bull,” Chief Acevedo said. “The officer discharged rounds, and we know the dog was struck and killed.”
Simultaneously, Tuttle came from somewhere in the back of the house and opened fire on the officer with a .357 Magnum revolver, KHOU reported.
The officer was hit.
“That officer was struck in the shoulder. He went down, fell on the sofa in the living room, at which time a female suspect went towards that officer, reached over the officer and started making a move for his shotgun,” Chief Acevedo explained to reporters.
Backup arrived at that point and opened fire, fatally shooting Nicholas as she tried to take a wounded officer’s weapon, ABC News reported.
As a gun battle ensued with Tuttle, some officers laid down cover fire while other officers “heroically pulled their fellow officers out of harm’s way,” Chief Acevedo said.
Tuttle was killed in the gunfight.
Four officers were shot, and another officer seriously injured his knee during the incident.
Investigators seized three rifles, two shotguns, marijuana, and a powdery substance believed to be either fentanyl or cocaine from inside the home, ABC News reported.
After Chief Acevedo’s announcement, the Houston Police Officer’s Union (HPOU} said they were extremely concerned about the allegations against Officer Goines, according to NBC News.
"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," the HPOU said.
“The officer at the center of this investigation, like any suspect in a criminal case, is innocent until proven guilty,” the union said, according to The New York Times. “However, at the end of the day, we are all law enforcement officers and the law must be equally enforced.”
Officer Goines’ attorney, Nicole DeBorde, said that it was “irresponsible” of Chief Acevedo to publicly accuse the veteran officer of wrongdoing while he is still “heavily medicated” an recovering in intensive care.
“He can’t speak for himself because his jaw is wired shut,” DeBorde told The New York Times. “It looks like there is scapegoating going on.”