Houston Police Chief Promises To End Use Of All No-Knock Warrants
Houston, TX – The Houston police chief said Monday that he plans to do away with controversial “no-knock warrants” except in very rare circumstances.
"The no-knock warrants are going to go away like leaded gasoline in this city," Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo promised a group of activists at an event organized by the Greater Houston Coalition for Justice, according to the Houston Chronicle.
No-knock warrants mean that officers don't have to wait for suspects to answer the door before making entry, but they are still required to identify themselves and announce their presence.
Chief Acevedo said he would have to personally approve any no-knock raids.
"I'm 99.9 percent sure we won't be using them," he said. "If for some reason there would be a specific case, that would come from my office."
The chief’s announcement comes just three weeks after a raid by agents that left two suspects dead and four officers wounded by gunfire. Another officer seriously injured his knee during the incident.
Critics said that Chief Acevedo’s announcement of his decision to do away with no-knock warrants is a knee-jerk reaction in the face of public criticism.
Retired Washington Metro Transit Police Special Response Team Commander William Malone told Blue Lives Matter that warrant squads use no-knock warrants for their own safety.
“It’s the element of surprise,” Malone explained. “Where there’s drugs, there’s guns. Drug dealers are habitually armed – especially in their own cribs.”
He said that if officers do a standard knock-and-announce, the suspects on the other side of the door have time to arm themselves, further barricade the residence, and even destroy evidence.
Malone, a 30-year veteran of his department, told Blue Lives Matter the execution was the problem with the no-knock warrant in the Jan. 28 raid in Houston.
“A bunch of undercover guys who are very good at undercover things are not necessarily good at no-knock entries,” he said. “If you’re going to execute no-knocks, you need a designated group of officers who train together, who work together, and who are properly equipped to execute these type of warrants.”
“Putting on a raid vest and knocking down a door does not make for a SWAT team entry,” Malone said.
The incident in Houston occurred just before 5 p.m. on Jan. 28 when a group of 15 officers made entry to a home and “immediately came under fire” from 59-year-old Dennis Tuttle and 58-year-old Rhogena Nicholas, Chief Acevedo told reporters at a press conference immediately after the incident.
“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 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.
Investigation into the entire debacle revealed that the undercover officer who had obtained the no-knock warrant for the raid had allegedly lied to get it, according to the chief.
"Thus far it appears that there are some material untruths or lies in that affidavit, and that's a problem," Chief Acevedo told reporters on Friday. "That's totally unacceptable."
The chief said that investigators with the Houston Police Department determined that the affidavit filed by 54-year-old Officer Gerald Goines to get the no-knock warrant contained false information about a controlled buy of heroin at the home using a confidential informant.
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.
Officer Goines, a 34-year veteran of the police force, was shot in the neck during the raid.
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."