ABC News(HOUSTON) — The former Houston police officer who allegedly lied in order to obtain a search warrant for a city residence has been charged with murder after a raid on that home resulted in the deaths of a couple inside.
Gerald Goines was charged Friday with two counts of murder related to the botched narcotics raid that took place at a home in southeast Houston on Jan. 28. His fellow cop, Steven Bryant, was charged with tampering with a government document for allegedly attempting to help Goines cover up the illegally obtained warrant.
During the raid, Rhogena Nicholas and Dennis Tuttle were shot to death by police officers, according to the medical examiner. The couple’s dog was also killed by police.
“Under Texas law, if, during the commission of one felony, in this case tampering with a government record, a person commits an act clearly dangerous to human life, execution of a no-knock warrant by an armed squad of police officers into a private residence that causes the death of another, in this case two deaths, it’s first-degree murder,” Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg said at a press conference Friday. “We call that felony murder.”
Both men were suspended from the Houston Police Department and later chose to retire.
Goines, 54, was the officer who obtained a so-called “no knock” warrant, which allows police to enter a building without signaling their arrival or reason for being there. Ogg said Goines made “numerous false statements” in the affidavit presented to the judge who signed the warrant. Among those were allegedly false claims that a two-week narcotics operation had just concluded at the home, an confidential informant had bought heroin from the address and the seller was armed with a handgun.
Four police officers were also shot, including Goines. One of those officers is still in the hospital in serious condition seven months later.
Bryant, 45, allegedly lied in supplemental paperwork saying he had assisted Goines in a narcotics operation at the house on day prior to the raid.
“Bryant’s claims were false,” Ogg said. “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’ CI the day before, Jan. 27. That was false.”
Goines lawyer, Nicole DeBorde, said late Friday her client was innocent of the charges, and they intended to fight them in court.
“It is not something we’ve been expecting. And I’m very disappointed the case wasn’t taken to a grand jury so the grand jury can actually vet the facts of this case,” DeBorde told ABC News. “I know the DA referenced the idea this case was still being investigated. It seems to me it would have been the better practice to make sure this was fully investigated and vetted by a grand jury. But we’re prepared to fight this and defend Gerald’s innocence in this matter.”
Both Goines and Bryant were booked Friday evening and released on bond. As a condition of his bond, Goines handed in his passport, must not leave Harris County and was fitted with an ankle monitoring bracelet.
“The indictments today of former HPD Gerald Goines and Steven Bryant are important developments, but they should be only the beginning of the pursuit of justice in the police killings of Rhogena Nicholas and Dennis Tuttle,” said Michael Patrick Doyle, the lawyer representing the family of Rhogena Nicholas. “The Nicholas family’s search for the truth of what happened to Rhogena also continues. Our independent investigation is focused not only on HPD Narcotics Squad 15, but also about the conduct, pattern and practices of HPD before, during, and after the out-of-control, unjustified execution of Rhogena in her own home.”
Doyle said the family still wants Houston Police Capt. Paul Follis and Houston Police Lt. Marsha Todd deposed in relation to the investigation.
The police union largely withheld comment on the arrests, but did agree no other officers should be charged.
“The HPOU has learned former Officers Steven Bryant and Gerald Goines have been charged criminally for conduct related to the Harding Street narcotics investigation and shooting,” the Houston Police Officers’ Union said in a statement. “Due to the pending criminal charges, it would be inappropriate for the HPOU to provide any additional comments. The HPOU would direct you to the attorneys representing former Officers Bryant and Goines.”
“The HPOU is pleased the District Attorney’s office appears to concur with the conclusions reached by the Houston Police Department investigation that no other officers were involved in any criminal activity relating to the execution of the warrant or the shooting.,” the union added.
Goines was a 34-year veteran of the Houston Police Department, while Bryant had worked for the department for 23 years.
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