Friday, February 08, 2019


Eleven unanswered questions about the botched police raid in Houston

By Scott Henson

Grits for Breakfast
February 2, 2019

Four officers were shot and two suspects and their dog are dead after a botched narcotics raid in Houston. Friends and family of the deceased say they were innocent victims. Obviously, I hope all the officers recover. But having watched this play out in the press for several days, Grits has questions.

Here's the background: According to the search warrant, police claimed they sent a confidential informant into the home who had assisted in 10 or more prior investigations, all of which had led to arrests and seizures. They searched the CI, gave him cash, and allegedly watched him go into the home in question. He came out with brown heroin in a bag, telling police he'd seen many other bags of heroin and a 9mm pistol. The officers placed the home under surveillance until they could get a warrant.

Problem is, they found no bags of heroin. There was no 9mm pistol. But when the narcotics unit (not a SWAT team) entered the home at five in the afternoon, announcing themselves as the battering ram broke the door down, there was an angry pit bull facing them that an officer immediately killed with a shotgun blast. At that, one of the homeowners returned fire, and an intense gunfight occurred.

The homeowners didn't have a 9mm, but they did have shotguns and a .357 Magnum, and they responded to the home invasion the way many gun owning Texas homeowners brag they would. Maybe they were violent criminals trying to kill police, but they could also have been unwitting victims of a lying informant who didn't understand who had broken down their door and shot their dog.

That's the first question: Were these people heroin dealers? The available evidence says no, and regrettably, they're not around to defend themselves against the allegation. Their neighbors told reporters they almost never had visitors, and their friends and family adamantly deny the charge. Cocaine was allegedly found on the scene, but one bag, at user levels. And the multiple bags of brown heroin and 9mm weapon alleged in the search-warrant affidavit were nowhere to be found.

So the second question is: Where did the informant get the heroin? Police claimed they followed best practices, searching the informant beforehand and watching him go in and out. The couple couldn't have moved it because police had the house under surveillance. And they'd have seen if there'd been enough customers for all the volume to deplete. So if the informant brought back heroin, where did it come from?

Third question: Is it plausible that this couple would sell smack to a CI sent to their front door whom they'd never met before? Something there doesn't add up.

Fourth question: Will the Conviction Integrity Unit at the Harris County District Attorney's Office now review those 10+ cases using this informant in the past? If he lied about this couple selling heroin, what else might he have lied about?

Fifth question: HPD claimed they raided the home for safety reasons because they knew there was a gun inside (even though they had bad information about that; there was no 9mm). But given the outcome, was it really safer? It was 5 p.m., so they were awake. Mightn't the outcome have been better if they'd just knocked on the front door?

Sixth question: Should police use "dynamic entry" to execute search warrants every time there's reportedly a gun in the home? There are probably guns in half the homes in Texas! Relatedly, if you're afraid someone might shoot at you when you break down their door, why not just wait outside for them to come out? The house was already under surveillance.

Seventh question: Were these narcotics officers sufficiently trained to perform a dynamic entry? There's a subsidiary question: why wasn't a SWAT team used? After his wife and dog had been killed, the husband, a Navy veteran with no criminal record, snuck out the back and opened fire on the officers from behind, the Houston Chronicle reported. This was a basic tactical error - someone should have been manning the back door. Also, such raids are frequently conducted pre-dawn to minimize the chance suspects will be awake and shoot back. This one was performed at five in the afternoon. So did these narcotics cops just not know what the hell they were doing?

Eighth question: Could they have raided the wrong house? The search warrant affidavit says police watched the informant go into the house and come out with drugs, then watched it until they raided it. But what if that's a lie? What if the informant merely told an officer the address of the house, and got it wrong? Otherwise, where is the heroin?

Ninth question: How much was the informant paid for this service? What is this person's background? How much was s/he paid in the past, and for what services? An officer vouched for the person in the search warrant affidavit, what was their relationship? It's okay to tell, the person can never be used as an informant again.

Tenth question: Chief Art Acevedo said neighbors thanked police for taking out a known drug house. But reporters interviewed every neighbor they could find and everyone said these were quiet people who seldom had visitors, loved animals, and kept to themselves. Why weren't those grateful neighbors corroborating the chief's claims to reporters?

Eleventh question: Why does Fox and Friends give union boss Joe Gamaldi a platform? The guy's a blowhard.

MORE: On Twitter, someone suggested another excellent question: "Who shot who?" It was said the wife was shot when she lunged for a downed officer's shotgun after her dog had been killed. Does that mean she was unarmed at the time and the husband did all the shooting? Were any of the police injured by friendly fire? Who shot who is an excellent question.


An investigative reporter believes there is a good chance the Houston narcs hit the wrong house. The house that was raided at 7815 Harding Street was a well-kept one-story cottage. Chief Art Acevedo suggested the occupants of that house knew it was cops breaking into their house because they had a sophisticated surveillance system. However, there were no security cameras anywhere on the outside of the house. Dennis Tuttle, 59, a disabled Navy veteran and Rhogena Nicholas, 58, his wife of 21-years were both killed in a shootout with the police. Tuttle had no criminal record and Nicholas only had a misdemeanor $145 hot check record. The narcs only found a small amount of pot and some white powder in the house.

Tully’s neighbors spoke highly of him and his wife and said, "They never had company" and "There was never traffic at that house. Never" and "They never noticed suspicious activity."

The reporter checked out the house at 7815 Hardy Street. That house was a dilapidated two-story house with its upstairs windows broken. The house was surrounded by a wrought iron fence and it had a number of high-tech security cameras on the outside. The occupant of that house had a long criminal history. To the reporter that looked like a drug house and he thought the cops should have hit the Hardy Street house.

When I was a narc, we always found a substantial quantity of drugs, at least one scale, packaging materials and usually a large amount of cash. Since that was not the case in the Harding Street and with the descriptions of the two houses, it appears quite likely that the raid should have been conducted at 7815 Hardy Street.

But not so fast there! The search warrant clearly listed the Harding Street address and described the place to be raided as a one-story house. The fact that the narcs found only some pot and a white powder does not mean Tuttle was not in the business of selling black tar heroin. There was nothing untoward in the use of the confidential informant who may or not have been paid. Based on the search warrant affidavit, the cops hit the right house.

As for Rhogena Nicholas being unarmed, the moment she reached for the fallen officer’s shotgun she was dead meat. And the dog was shot because it was aggressive in trying to protect its masters and their house.

The deaths of Tuttle and his wife and the wounding of four officers was a tragedy no doubt, but what is really sickening is that Grits has brought out the usual cop-haters with their ugly comments calling the cops murderers.

Oh, by the way, a lot of criminals, especially dope dealers, are dirt bags. And those of you who call cops murderers are dirt bags too!


18 grams of marijuana and 1.5 grams of an unknown white powder were found at the raided house. A couple of shot guns, a .22 cal. rifle and a 7mm rifle were also found. The white powder turned out to be cocaine.

According to the search warrant affidavit, one of the narcs observed their informant leave the location before he handed them a baggie of black tar heroin. He said that "a large quantity of plastic baggies" of the heroin was in the house, along with a handgun, but no plastic baggies or black tar heroin were found.

The raid is now and has been under investigation by HPD’s internal affairs unit.


Trey Rusk said...

I don't read Grits because he hates cops. I think a SWAT team needs to run these types of raids. The informant must have a good track record if he has 10 previous and productive buys, but as we all know informants are usually working off a charge against them and don't want to go to jail.

bob walsh said...

Maybe the suspects flushed all the drugs and the 9mm before the cops showed up. But probably not.