Houston, TX – The murder charge pending against a Houston police officer who had nothing to do with the bad warrant for a deadly raid that left five officers wounded and two suspects dead was dismissed on Tuesday, but a new murder indictment could still be forthcoming.
Officer Gallegos was originally indicted on Jan. 25 for fatally shooting 59-year-old Dennis Tuttle during a drug raid two years earlier, KHOU reported.
Ogg said the case was dismissed “so that evidence can be re-presented to a new grand jury to determine if an indictment is warranted.”
According to the district attorney, the way in which a now-former prosecutor from her office handled the case “raised concerns about his judgement and resulted in his termination from the office.”
Ogg said the case will be reviewed yet again by another prosecutor in her office’s Civil Rights Division so it can be “re-presented to a grand jury.”
Officer Gallegos will also be given the option to testify and to present “his version of the facts” to the grand jury, the district attorney wrote.
“All officer-involved shootings in Harris County are presented to a grand jury, so that citizens who represent the community can determine if there is probable cause to support a criminal charge,” she noted.
Officer Gallegos still faces a charge of engaging in organized criminal activity.
“People’s lives hang in the balance of every decision that we make, and it is incumbent upon me as District Attorney to have this situation re-reviewed to ensure justice in this case, as in every case,” Ogg said in the press release.
The officer-involved shooting occurred on Jan. 28, 2019, when Houston police attempted to serve a warrant at the home of Tuttle and 58-year-old Rhogena Nicholas in connection with a drug investigation.
Tuttle and Nicholas opened fire on police during the raid, wounding four officers and injuring a fifth, before they were both fatally shot by police.
When the gun battle and what led up to it were investigated, authorities determined that the lead investigator, now-retired Houston Police Officer Gerald Goines, had falsified some of the information he used to get the search warrant for the home.
Although police “had reason to investigate” the home of Tuttle and Nicholas, the lead investigator allegedly concocted false information in the affidavit used to secure the warrant for the drug raid,” then-Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo said.
Retired Officer Goines – who was shot in the neck during the gun battle – was indicted on two counts of felony murder in 2019, KHOU reported.
The District Attorney’s Office has so far gotten multiple indictments on 12 officers involved in the incident; however, most of the charges were related to paperwork and overtime.
Only retired Officer Goines, who allegedly lied about using a confidential informant to buy heroin at the address, and Officer Gallegos were charged with murder.
The Harris County grand jury declined to hear testimony from the veteran officer before they indicted Officer Gallegos for murder, despite the fact he had no involvement in getting the warrant, KHOU reported.
Houston Police Officers’ Union President Doug Griffith told The Police Tribune that move alone was enough to raise eyebrows.
“Every grand jury wants to speak with a witness,” Griffith explained. “This is the first time I’ve heard of a grand jury saying ‘no, we don’t want to speak with him.’ I don’t see how you can convict Officer Gallegos of murder.”
“This is a no-win situation for the DA,” the union boss continued. “This was nothing more than a political play for her friend to file the wrongful death lawsuit.”
Griffith told The Police Tribune that Ogg’s motives for prosecuting Officer Gallegos were “nothing more than politics.”
“One of the other attorneys said it best,” he said. “This is nothing more than the return of a political favor.”
The union president told The Police Tribune that Mike Doyle, the attorney who is representing Tuttle’s family in a wrongful death lawsuit filed against the city and the officers earlier this year, was hired by the Harris County district attorney in 2018.
“The attorney representing the family was a special prosecutor for the Arkema case here in Houston after Hurricane Harvey,” Griffith explained.
He said he found it “a little odd” that Ogg would “happen to file” charges against Officer Gallegos two years after the incident, but three days before the family filed a wrongful death suit.
“It doesn’t seem like coincidence to me,” Griffith added.
“The district attorney is trying to make it look like a big criminal conspiracy because it provides cover for her friend, the family’s attorney, to go after the city and the officers for the big money,” he told The Police Tribune. “They want the city to settle with a big payout.”
Griffith explained that at the time of the 2019 incident, Officer Gallegos was trying to go to the SWAT team and he was lying low until he was transferred.
“So, he was last in the line just working… When he saw those officers go down in the house, he immediately responded and tried to lay down cover fire for those guys and shot the suspect,” the union president said, painting a picture of what happened.
“So, I’m not exactly sure how she’s gonna get murder charges when [Tuttle] was actively engaging one of our people,” he added.
The district attorney has described all of the officers involved as corrupt, KHOU reported.
“The consequences of corruption are that two innocent people and their dog were shot to death in their home by police; four officers were shot, one paralyzed, and now all of them will face jurors who will determine their fate,” Ogg proclaimed during the press conference when she announced the murder charge in January.
Griffith told The Police Tribune that he had a problem with Ogg characterizing Tuttle and Nicholas as “innocent people.”
“I have a problem with the DA describing these people as normal average citizens. If normal citizens have cocaine in their homes and shoot cops, then we have a bigger issue,” he said.
Griffith said Ogg had spent millions of taxpayer dollars on the investigation and “the only thing she has netted in this whole thing were paperwork irregularities… and not one bit of this information has she shared with the department.”
The Houston police union is paying for the legal defense of all the officers involved in the incident except former-Officer Goines, according to the union president.
Chief Acevedo offered his support to Officer Gallegos by issuing a statement soon after the indictment was announced, KHOU reported.
“Today, I learned that another officer who was involved in the Harding Street officer-involved shooting has been indicted for murder,” Chief Acevedo said at the time. “I have said many times that the other officers involved in the incident, including the officer involved today, had no involvement in obtaining the warrant and responded appropriately to the deadly threat posed to them during its service.”