HOUSTON – Former Houston police officers Gerald Goines, 55, and Steven Bryant, 46, were both arrested on federal charges Wednesday morning in connection with the botched January Harding Street raid that left two people dead, according to the FBI.
The woman who called 911, Patricia Garcia, 53, has also been charged.
On Jan. 28, Rhogena Nicholas and Dennis Tuttle were killed when several police officers burst into their home at 7815 Harding Street. After officers shot the couple’s dog, Tuttle began firing at officers and they returned fire, killing both Nicholas and Tuttle, officials say. Five HPD officers were also hurt in the gunfire.
#BREAKING: FBI arrested on federal charges this morning Gerald Goines, Steven Bryant, both former Houston police officers, and 9-1-1 caller Patricia Garcia in connection to the January fatal Harding Street narcotics operation. #HouNews— FBI Houston (@FBIHouston) November 20, 2019
Goines and Bryant were both charged in August by the Harris County District Attorney’s Office after months of investigation. Goines faces two counts of murder in Nicholas’ and Tuttle’s deaths. Bryant faces a tampering with government documentation charge in the case.
A federal grand jury returned a 9-count indictment on Nov. 14 that was unsealed Wednesday.
Goines’ federal charges
Counts 1 and 2: Deprivation of Rights Under Color of Law
Officials say Goines “willfully deprived” Tuttle and Nicholas of their “right, secured and protected by the Constitution and laws of the United States, for people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects against reasonable searches and seizures.”
Counts 3 and 4: Destruction, Alteration, or Falsification of Records in Federal Investigations and Bankruptcy
Goines is accused of making “a false entry in a record, document, and tangible object with intent to impede, obstruct, and influence the investigation and proper administration of the matter within federal jurisdiction.” He is also accused of making a tactical plan and executing it while knowing that there were false statements in it, “including that a confidential informant purchased heroin from 7815 Harding Street on Jan. 27,” officials wrote in the indictment.
Count 4 of the indictment focuses on an accusation that Goines made a false police report claiming an informant bought drugs from the Harding Street home one day before the raid.
Counts 5, 6 and 7: Tampering with a Witness, Victim, or an Informant
Goines is accused of lying on three different occasions to a Houston police officer that either he or an informant bought drugs from the Harding Street home in the days leading up to the fatal raid.
Bryant’s federal charge
Byrant faces one federal charge of falsifying records in a federal investigation.
Bryant is accused of lying in a police report saying he “had previously assisting Officer Gerald Goines in the investigation on Jan. 27, 2019," and that he said the heroin that was retrieved from Goines’ vehicle was bought from the Harding Street home on Jan. 27, officials wrote in the indictment.
Garcia’s federal charge
Garcia faces a charge of reporting false information.
Officials say on Jan. 8, Garcia, a neighbor of the victims on Harding Street, made a series of 911 calls that they believe set off the chain of events culminating in the botched raid 20 days later. She allegedly told officials her daughter was inside the home on Harding Street with heavily armed drug dealers. She is accused of falsely reporting that the people in the home were doing crack cocaine and heroin.
If convicted of federal charges, Goines faces up to life in prison. Each obstruction count carries a potential 20-year sentence. Garcia faces a 5-year prison term.
Houston officials’ reaction
Mayor Sylvester Turner and Houston City Council members declined to comment on the indictments Wednesday.
HPD Chief Art Acevedo held a press conference on Wednesday at noon regarding the new charges against former members of his team.
“We have never been afraid of finding the truth as a police department,” Acevedo said. “Because our commitment is to the truth and our commitment is to the rule of law.”
Acevedo would not say when documents from the HPD’s internal investigation into the botched raid would be released.
In the past, Acevedo maintained that he believed that the Houston narcotics offers had a reason to conduct the raid. He doubled down on that statement Wednesday.
“I stand by we had a reason to be in that house,” he said. “And just remember, what we said that we had a reason to be in that house and probable cause or suspicion to be in that house, there’s a reason we were there and that will all come out in due time.”
Victims’ families react
Legal counsel for the family of Rhogena Nicholas issued a statement shortly after news of federal charges broke.
“We hope the Nicholas family’s quest for justice in the death of Rhogena will be expedited by the FBI’s actions today. The investigation of the rogue Harding Street raid and the Houston Police Department must continue as far and wide as necessary," wrote Michael Patrick Doyle, LLP. "If city officials continue to refuse to disclose what happened in these HPD killings, we hope federal authorities will do so. The federal indictments confirm the breadth and depth of the lies told to justify the raid before and after the death of Rhogena Nicholas.”
Tuttle’s family also issued a statement through a spokesperson late Wednesday morning.
“The family of Dennis Tuttle has suffered and is still suffering, a long and devastating ordeal. Their sense of loss, as well as their inability to make sense of what happened and why, are as raw today as they were on January 28. They are pleased to learn that the US Attorney is taking this action and to see that the wheels of justice are turning. The family still has very limited information. They still have very many unanswered questions, and like the rest of the world we are eager to see how this plays out in a court of law.”
Recap of the raid
On Jan. 28, Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo said officers raided a Harding Street residence in the Gloverdale neighborhood as part of a drug investigation. Officers raided the home and were met with an aggressive dog, Acevedo said. One of the officers shot and killed the dog.
Tuttle then walked out of the backroom and used at .357 revolver to start shooting at officers, Acevedo said. He wounded one of the officers who then fell on a living room couch. Officials said Nicholas then tried to reach for his gun.
Officers returned fire, killing both Tuttle and Nicholas, Acevedo said.
See a timeline of events before, during and after the Harding Street raid below: