Shocking Corruption Revealed in Houston Police Department

HOUSTON (CN) — Fallout from a bungled Houston police raid that left a married couple dead deepened Wednesday as prosecutors charged several retired officers with felony records tampering, and the police department released an audit detailing corruption that led to the raid.

Gerald Goines, 55, the now-retired HPD narcotics officer at the center of the scandal, was already facing two state felony murder charges, in addition to federal civil rights charges, that could send him to prison for the rest of his life.

Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg on Wednesday announced four more felony charges against Goines.

Goines was one of six retired HPD officers charged with a total of 15 felonies Wednesday.

“Allegations include using false information to get judges to sign search warrants, falsifying time sheets, putting false information in offense reports and falsifying governments documents to steal,” Ogg’s office said in a statement.

Goines is accused of lying in a search warrant affidavit in January 2019 that he had a confidential informant buy small baggies of heroin from a man at a southeast Houston home. Goines later told HPD investigators he had bought the heroin himself.

Goines was part of a Houston police narcotics squad that executed a no-knock warrant on the home on Jan. 28, 2019. Police exchanged gunfire with Dennis Tuttle, 59, a Navy veteran, and fatally shot Tuttle and his wife Rhogena Nicholas, 58, and the couple’s dog.

Goines was shot in the neck and underwent several surgeries. Three other officers were also shot in the raid.

Goines’ former HPD partner Steven Bryant, 46, is also facing state and federal felony charges of falsifying records. Prosecutors say he wrote a bogus report stating he had found a plastic bag containing two packets of heroin at the couple’s home.

Prosecutors hit Bryant with three more felony charges Wednesday, alleging he made false statements in forms documenting his interactions with confidential informants.

Both Bryant and Goines retired in March 2019.

Harris County prosecutors are reviewing thousands of cases Goines and Bryant and their HPD narcotics unit worked on and have dismissed several of them.

In addition to the new charges against Goines and Bryant, prosecutors charged retired HPD Sgt. Clemente Reyna, Sgt. Thomas Wood, Lt. Robert Gonzales and Officer Hodgie Armstrong with felonies on Wednesday.

“The new charges show a pattern and practice of lying and deceit. There are mountains more evidence to review, and more charges are likely as we push into the next phase of our investigation,” Ogg said in a statement.

She said her investigation of the narcotics unit revealed a troubling pattern: Most of the people arrested by the unit were black and Hispanic men accused of low-level drug offenses.

Activists calling for police reforms in the wake of the Minneapolis police killing of Houston native George Floyd are calling for law enforcement to do away with no-knock warrants and to require all officers to wear body cameras.

The Houston Police Department on Wednesday released a report on an audit that Chief Art Acevedo commissioned shortly after the botched January 2019 raid.

The report revealed that as of December 2019, HPD changed its policy so all no-knock warrants require the chief’s or his surrogate’s approval and must be executed by SWAT teams; body cameras are now mandatory for narcotics officers executing warrants and they must turn them on before they leave their police cars; and police must shoot video of the home’s exterior and interior before searching it.

The audit of Goines’ and Bryant’s cases went back to Jan. 1, 2016 up through Jan. 28, 2019, the day of the fatal raid. The department also audited four of its narcotics squads.

The report details deep dysfunction, in which narcotics officers routinely failed to timely complete arrest reports, entered supplements for reports months after the arrests occurred and dealt with confidential informants without oversight from their supervisors.

Goines and Bryant made frequent use of informants during the time covered by the audit, with 74% of Goines’ cases involving an informant and 84% of Bryant’s, according to the report.

It says Goines used six informants whom HPD paid a total of $13,845 for helping police make arrests.

The scandal has spurred HPD to clamp down on its narcotics officers’ dealings with informants.

“Supervisory oversight of all investigations involving a confidential informant has been enhanced. Supervisors will also verify the veracity off all confidential informants’ information, especially any information leading to the issuance of a search or arrest warrant,” the audit report states.

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