HOUSTON (CN) – A former Houston policeman made his first appearance in federal court Wednesday to face charges that a married couple was shot dead by a SWAT team in their home because he made false statements in a warrant affidavit.
Gerald Goines, 55, could spend the rest of his life in prison if convicted of deprivation of rights under color of law resulting in death. He is also facing state murder charges.
A Houston police narcotics squad with a no-knock warrant burst into a southeast Houston home on Jan. 28, 2019, looking for bricks of heroin.
They exchanged gunfire with Dennis Tuttle, a 59-year-old Navy veteran. When the shooting stopped, Tuttle and his wife Rhogena Nicholas, 58, were dead with multiple gunshot wounds and several officers had also been shot.
The police also fatally shot the couple’s dog. They did not find any heroin, just small amounts of cocaine and marijuana.
Goines was shot in the face during the raid. He was hospitalized for three weeks and had six surgeries.
A federal grand jury indicted him on Nov. 14 on two counts of deprivation of rights, two counts of falsifying records and three counts of witness tampering, which together carry a potential fine of up to $1.75 million.
The indictment was unsealed Wednesday after Goines turned himself into the FBI.
The indictment also charges Steven Bryant, 46, Goines’ former HPD partner, with falsifying records. Patricia Ann Garcia, a neighbor, was charged with providing false information in 911 calls regarding the residents of the home police raided. The FBI also arrested them on Wednesday.
As he waited to be called up to the bench, Goines sat in a corner of a jury box glowering at clusters of chattering attorneys and U.S. marshals, his thick shoulders filling out his white New York Knicks T-shirt.
The bald, 6-foot-7 Bryant sat scowling on the opposite side of the jury box from Goines.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Dena Palermo released Bryant on a $50,000 unsecured bond. She said his bond restricts him to Harris County and surrounding counties and he must ask for permission first if he needs to travel outside that area for his daughter’s sports tournaments.
“And it will be freely given,” she said.
Bryant was arraigned and pleaded not guilty.
But Assistant U.S. Attorney Arthur Jones moved to keep Goines behind bars because he believes Goines is a flight risk and danger to the community. He did not explain why. Goines’ detention hearing is set for Friday at 10 a.m.
Garcia asked for a court-appointed attorney.
“Do you own any property?” Judge Palermo asked her.
“No,” Garcia said.
“OK, I find you qualified,” Palermo said.
Palermo also granted Jones’ request to detain Garcia.
Jones said he thinks the government will recommend a bond for Garcia, who wore a long gray T-shirt with her black hair on her shoulders, but will announce its decision at a bond hearing Thursday at 2 p.m. after Jones reads a pretrial services report about her background.
According to the indictment, Garcia placed several 911 calls on Jan. 8, three weeks before the raid, and falsely claimed that her daughter was inside the home and that a man and a woman who lived there were using crack cocaine and heroin and had machine guns. Garcia also allegedly claimed the woman was a heroin dealer.
She faces up to five years in prison and a maximum fine of $250,000 if convicted.
Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg charged Goines with two counts of murder in August after an HPD internal investigation turned up inconsistencies in his story.
Ogg said in an emailed statement Wednesday she will not drop the state charges on account of the federal indictment.
“It is not uncommon for defendants in complex cases to be charged by both local and federal authorities under separate laws; our investigation continues. We all want to flesh out all the facts, all the evidence, and ensure that the truth is known,” she said.
According to Ogg, Goines lied in an affidavit he gave to the magistrate who issued the warrant that a confidential informant had bought heroin from an unknown 55-year-old man at the home the previous day.
Goines and Bryant were narcotics squad partners. They retired in March after the Harris County DA’s Office launched an investigation into the raid and said it was reviewing more than 1,000 cases the men had worked on.
Harris County prosecutors also charged Bryant in August with one count of second-degree tampering with a government document.
In the federal indictment, Bryant is accused of lying in an offense report supplement that he had helped Goines with the investigation prior to the raid. Bryant’s federal charge carries a 20-year maximum sentence and up to $250,000 fine.
Goines and Bryant were free on bond on the state charges when the FBI arrested them Wednesday.