Phony Overtime, Fictional Drug Buys, and Mysterious C.I. Payments Offer a Glimpse of Houston Police Corruption
On January 22, 2019, Houston narcotics officer Hodgie Armstrong paid a confidential informant who bought drugs as part of a case he was investigating. The informant made the purchase around 6 p.m. that day at 4437 Knoxville Street, and another narcotics officer, Steven Bryant, was there to observe the transaction and Armstrong’s payment to the informant an hour and a half later, serving as the witness required by Houston Police Department policy.
Or so Armstrong and Bryant claimed. According to the local prosecutors who this week accused Armstrong of tampering with a government record, cellphone location data showed Bryant was nowhere near that address at the time of the purported drug purchase or the subsequent payment. At 6 p.m., the charge against Armstrong says, Bryant was more than 30 miles from 4437 Knoxville Street; between 7:30 and 8 p.m., he was more than 25 miles away.
That incident illustrates the widespread irregularities in the HPD’s Narcotics Division that have been discovered following the January 2019 drug raid that killed a middle-aged couple, Dennis Tuttle and Rhogena Nicholas, in their home on Harding Street. The Harding Street raid, which discovered no evidence of drug dealing, was instigated by veteran narcotics officer Gerald Goines, who obtained a no-knock search warrant based on a fictional heroin purchase by a nonexistent informant. Goines faces state murder charges and federal civil rights charges, both of which are punishable by life in prison, because of that fatal fraud.
By contrast, the charge against Armstrong, Goines’ former partner, carries a maximum penalty of two years in jail. But the false report Armstrong allegedly filed fits a pattern of shady practices and lax supervision in the Narcotics Division exemplified by Goines, who was employed by the HPD for 34 years. That environment, which included the frequently sloppy case documentation revealed by an audit report released this week, apparently made Goines think he could get away with implicating Tuttle and Nicholas by concocting a story that no one would try to verify.
Bryant, the officer who falsely claimed to have witnessed the transaction that Armstrong supposedly arra
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