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Fatal Houston PD Drug Raid Apparently Predicated On Drugs A Cop Had Stashed In His Car

By Tim Cushing | techdirt | February 19, 2019

The ugly Houston PD drug raid that resulted in four injured officers and two dead “suspects” just keeps getting uglier.

Officers swore a confidential informant purchased heroin from 59-year-old Dennis Tuttle in the house he shared with his wife of 21 years, Rhogena Nicholas. They swore the CI told them the house was filled with heroin packaged for purchase.

On the strength of this confidential informant’s claims, officers obtained a no-knock warrant and raided Tuttle’s house. The officers claimed Tuttle opened fire on them and that his wife tried to grab a shotgun from a downed officer. This was the supposed reason for SWAT team’s killing of Tuttle and Nicholas.

This was the narrative everyone was given. Not a single officer was wearing a body cam, despite the department possessing dozens of them. The only footage that survived — captured by a neighbor’s security camera — was confiscated by the Houston PD.

Even in this vacuum of information, the PD’s narrative quickly fell apart. No large amounts of heroin were found during the raid — just personal use quantities of heroin cocaine and marijuana. The inventory also included a few guns, which the PD has treated as inherent evidence of criminality despite the fact both Tuttle and his wife could legally own the weapons found in the house. The only criminal history either of them had was an old misdemeanor charge for a bad check.

Now that the PD’s investigation into this raid is underway, it’s becoming clear the official narrative — a daring no-knock raid that took out dangerous heroin dealers — isn’t going to survive. The new narrative already includes multiple lies by police officers and a lot of supporting evidence.

First off, the raid inventory does not include the weapon officers claimed Tuttle fired at them.

The other four items in the inventory are guns: a 20-gauge Beretta ALS shotgun, a 12-gauge Remington 1100 shotgun, a Remington 700 bolt-action rifle, and a .22-caliber Winchester 190 semi-automatic rifle. The list does not include the .357 Magnum revolver that police say Tuttle fired at the officers who broke into his home, shot his dog, and killed his wife.

It also doesn’t include the money the CI paid for the heroin or the weapon he claimed Tuttle was carrying.

Nor does it mention the 9mm semi-automatic handgun that the C.I. supposedly saw in the house the day before, which apparently disappeared along with the heroin and the money.

The PD also claimed the investigation was initiated by an anonymous call claiming the couple were selling drugs from their house. Since that initial press salvo by Chief Art Acevedo, information has come out indicating the “tip” was neither anonymous nor did it reference drug dealing.

A 911 call from the mother of now-deceased suspect Rhogena Nicholas put 7815 Harding Street on police radar. Sources close to the investigation say her mother called reporting the 58-year-old was doing drugs inside her own home.

It only gets worse. According to statements from officers now under investigation, it appears the Houston PD raided a house, shot a dog, and killed two people over drugs a police officer had stashed in his vehicle.

In the original warrant – the one used to justify the raid – [Officer Gerald] Goines wrote that he watched the buy and, along with Bryant, identified the substance as heroin. But when investigators went back to talk to [Officer Steven] Bryant, he admitted that he’d actually just retrieved two bags of heroin from the center console of Goines’ car, at the instruction of another officer.

Though he then took the two bags of drugs for testing to determine that they were heroin, he eventually admitted that he had never seen narcotics in question before retrieving them from the car. That, the investigator noted, contradicts the search warrant affidavit filed before the raid, which indicates that Bryant “recognized the substance purchased by the CI as heroin.”

This is absolutely terrifying. Investigators can’t seem to locate the informant both officers claimed was a reliable source of intel, which suggests this person — relied on in other Houston PD investigations — doesn’t even exist. None of the CIs interviewed by Houston investigators said they’d made the purchase detailed in the warrant affidavit.

How do citizens protect themselves against police officers willing to fabricate every aspect of an investigation in order to perform armed raids of their houses? Legally owning weapons means nothing when cops (and many courts) consider homeowners defending themselves from armed intruders a crime in and of itself. Two people are dead and no amount of late-arriving indictments is going to change that. Officers took a concerned mother’s call about her daughter’s drug use and turned it into a criminal conspiracy involving heroin and dangerous drug pushers armed to the teeth.

We have to grant law enforcement a massive amount of power in order for them to do their job. Time after time, they abuse the powers we’ve given them, wielding them like weapons against the same citizens they’re supposed to answer to. Vast power has been paired with nearly nonexistent accountability to create an atmosphere where officers feel comfortable manufacturing evidence to support their adrenaline habits. This should be nightmare fuel for all Americans. Unfortunately, outside of those already attuned to the miserable state of American policing, this will appear to be nothing more than a couple of bad apples they can safely ignore.

February 20, 2019 - Posted by | Civil Liberties, Deception | ,

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