Two former Houston police officers were indicted by a federal grand jury on Wednesday in connection with a January drug raid that left two people dead and five officers injured.
Gerald Goines, 55, and his partner, 46-year-old Steven Bryant, were both taken into custody by the FBI on several charges stemming from a civil-rights investigation into the Jan. 28 narcotics raid at a Harding Street home.
Goines is accused of falsifying information to secure a state search warrant, while his partner allegedly covered for him by submitting a false police report in the wake of the deadly raid.
“We made a commitment when this happened to this community to look at the good, the bad, and the ugly and report back. And today is another step in that journey toward justice,” Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo said in a Wednesday press conference. “We have never been afraid of finding the truth as a police department because our commitment is to the truth and our commitment is to the rule of law.”
The federal grand jury’s indictment also charged 53-year-old Patricia Ann Garcia with conveying false information for several 911 calls she made claiming the Harding homeowners were “addicts and drug dealers.”
Her calls “set off a chain of events” that eventually led to the fatal shootout of Dennis Tuttle, 59, and Rhogena Nicholas, 58, inside their own home, Acevedo said.
“The federal indictments confirm the breadth and depth of the lies told to justify the raid before and after the death of Rhogena Nicholas,” Michael Patrick Doyle, an attorney for the Nicholas family, said in a statement Wednesday.
Prosecutors allege that in January, Goines “made numerous materially false statements” to his superiors to obtain a search warrant, because he believed the couple was producing black-tar heroin. Family members have since denied they were drug dealers and investigators found only small amounts of cocaine and marijuana in the couple’s home.
To obtain the warrant, the indictment alleges, Goines stated a confidential informant had purchased heroin at the house—but after the raid, the narcotics officer admitted that he made up the informant and lied about buying drugs at the home.
An undercover narcotics team arrived to the Harding home on Jan. 28, breaking down the door with weapons drawn. Acevedo said at the time that one of the officers fatally shot the couple’s dog before Tuttle walked out of a backroom with a .357 revolver and returned fire.
Tuttle and Nicholas were quickly killed in the raid, but not before shooting four of the five officers who entered the house, including Goines, authorities said.
Instead of finding heroin, officers only located small amounts of marijuana and cocaine—sparking an internal investigation into the justification behind the search warrant.
“When this incident occurred, as this community knows, within a matter of days some flags went up and this police department immediately began a comprehensive, exhaustive investigation into all the people that were arrested this morning,” Acevedo said on Wednesday.
Both officers were released from duty after the raid and have since retired from the Houston Police Department.
The indictment alleges Bryant immediately backed up his partner’s story in a supplemental case report, claiming Goines did purchase heroin at the home because he found a “a brown powdery substance (heroin)” in his car. Later, the former police officer falsely told investigators he was working on the Harding investigation with Goines.
During the investigation, officers also discovered several fake 911 calls to police about the Harding home. In several calls, Garcia claimed “her daughter was inside the Harding Street location,” and later “added that the residents of the home were addicts and drug dealers and that they had guns—including machine guns—inside the home.”
Investigators later learned none of her allegations were true.
“The Tuttle family has gone through a lot and the ability to grieve has been difficult. They are pleased to see the U.S. attorney take this action and eager to see how it plays out,” Boyd Smith, an attorney who represents the Tuttle family, said in a statement.
Goines was taken into custody on Wednesday on two counts of depriving the victims’ constitutional right to be secure against unreasonable searches, one count of obstructing justice by falsifying records, and three counts of obstructing an official proceedings. Bryant was arrested on one count of falsifying records.
The new charges come after the Harris County District Attorney’s Office charged Goines with two counts of murder in connection to the raid. Bryant was charged with tampering with a government document in August.
If convicted, Goines faces a maximum sentence of life in prison, while his partner faces 20 years. Garces faces five years in prison.