Houston, TX – Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg has filed 15 new felony charges against six retired Houston police officers in connection with a shootout that left two people dead and four officers wounded.
Ogg announced on Wednesday that additional charges against the six former narcotics officers may be forthcoming, KTRK reported.
“The new charges show a pattern and practice of lying and deceit,” she declared during a press briefing. “There are mountains more evidence to review, and more charges are likely as we push into the next phase of our investigation.”
Two of the former officers – Steven Bryant and Gerald Goines – had previously been charged with other offenses in connection with the case, KTRK reported.
Goines, who was shot in the neck during the gun battle, was charged with murder in August of 2019 in connection with the deaths of the two suspects.
Now, five of the six former officers charged on Wednesday have been accused of falsifying documents they used to conduct narcotics investigations.
According to Ogg, the officers falsified time sheets, lied to judges to get them to sign search warrants, and put false information in offense reports, KTRK reported.
She also accused the officers of falsifying documents in order to steal.
“Goines and others could never have preyed on our community the way they did without the participation of their supervisors; every check and balance in place to stop this type of behavior was circumvented,” Ogg declared. “This was graft and greed at every step in the process, and prosecutors are making their way through the evidence one incident at a time.”
Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo said in January of 2019 that Goines had allegedly provided “some material untruths or lies” to obtain a search warrant that led to the deadly gun battle, NBC News reported at the time.
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.
Tuttle and Nicholas opened fire on police during the Jan. 28, 2019 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 said in 2019. “That’s totally unacceptable.”
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, 2019, 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 alleged 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.
According to prosecutors, Goines later admitted that he made the drug purchase himself without the use of an informant, and allegedly said that he wasn’t sure if Tuttle was the same person who he’d made the purchase from, the Houston Chronicle reported.
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 their Harding Street residence, ABC News reported.
“We weren’t there willy-nilly,” Chief Acevedo noted in 2019. “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, 2019, 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 the 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.
Goines has been charged with two counts of felony murder because Tuttle and Nicholas were killed while he was allegedly committing another offense of tampering with a government record by obtaining one under false pretenses, the New York Daily News reported.
Prosecutors do not have to prove that Goines intended to kill Tuttle and Nicholas for a felony murder charge like they would for a traditional murder offense, according to the Houston Chronicle.
In order for Goines to be convicted, the state only has to prove that he committed a dangerous act that resulted in a death while he was committing another felony.
Goines faces a potential death sentence if convicted, the New York Daily News reported.
Bryant, 45, had previously been charged with tampering with evidence for allegedly lying in a police report pertaining to the case, ABC News reported.
“Bryant’s claims were false,” Ogg declared in 2019. “He further fabricated that two days after the raid on the Harding Street residence that he recovered a plastic bag that contained a white napkin and two small packets of a brown powdery substance that he knew, based on his skill and expertise, contained heroin. Bryant claimed that he recognized the drugs as the same drugs allegedly purchased by Goines’ [criminal informant] the day before, Jan. 27. That was false.”
Goines and Bryant, a 23-year veteran-of-the-force, both retired from the department while under investigation, the Houston Chronicle reported.
Ogg said on Wednesday that the latest round of charges against Bryant, Goines, and the four other retired officers came after the Houston Police Department’s Narcotic Division combed through thousands of the squad’s prior cases, KHOU reported.
The district attorney alleged that the supervisors who have been charged had signed off on documents claiming they had witnessed officers giving money to confidential informants to go buy drugs, but that evidence showed the supervisors had not actually been present at the time and must have lied about what they supposedly witnessed.
Goines has been charged with additional offenses of theft by a public servant and three counts of tampering with a government record, KHOU reported.
Bryant faces new charges of theft by a public servant and two counts of tampering with a government record.
Retired HPD Sergeant Clemente Reyna has been charged with theft by a public servant and three counts of tampering with a government record.
Retired HPD Sergeant Thomas Wood faces charges of theft by a public servant and one count of tampering with a government record.
Retired HPD Lieutenant Robert Gonzales has been charged with misapplication of fiduciary property for allegedly handling HPD money recklessly, KHOU reported.
Retired HPD Officer Hodgie Armstrong has been charged with one count of tampering with a government record.
The cases are expected to be presented to a Harris County grand jury sometime in July, according to KHOU.
HPD said in a statement that Ogg’s office has not briefed them on the latest round of charges, and noted that the involved officers “separated from the department more than a year ago.”
“We have cooperated fully throughout the investigative process and will continue to do so,” the department said.
Ogg said on Wednesday that the “new charges show a pattern and practice of lying and deceit,” KTRK reported. “This investigation is peeling back layers of a narcotics-enforcement system gone awry. It calls into question the way HPD has been enforcing narcotics laws, especially in communities of color. The lion’s share of arrests made by this squad were minority men for low-level drug crimes.”
The Houston Police Officers’ Union (HPOU) came out swinging against the charges filed against the retired officers.
“As their alleged conduct occurred during their employment as Houston Police Officers, the Houston Police Officers’ Union will be representing them,” the union said in a statement on Wednesday. “This will ensure they are not the victims of what is clearly a political ploy from the most corrupt District Attorney in the history of Harris County, Kim Ogg.”
The union alleged that the charges were simply filed as a “distraction from the repeated failures” and negative attention Ogg’s office “invites” on a seemingly daily basis.
“It does not take 18 months to investigate a ‘tampering with a government document’ case,” the union declared.
The HPOU further alleged that in the wake of the George Floyd riots, Ogg “approached her entire civil rights division, and instructed them to ‘indict as many cops as you can,’ (whether justified or not) by the end of June in order to capitalize on the political climate.”
“We cannot stay silent while she attempts to indict innocent people simply because she wants to be re-elected to a position which she is clearly too incompetent to hold,” the union said in the press release.
“It is apparent to any reasonable, law abiding member of our community, that Kim Ogg has become a rogue DA,” they declared. “A district attorney who looks the other way while violent crime ravages our community but will charge police officers if she believes it will help her failing campaign.”
The HPOU said it looks forward to “our officers’ day in court.”
In addition to filing charges against the six retired officers, Ogg said that her office is reviewing Goines’ other cases in order to determine whether or not anyone he arrested has been wrongfully convicted, KTRK reported.