Nearly 2 Years After Houston Drug Warriors Killed Rhogena Nicholas, Her Family May Get a Chance To Find Out What Happened
Nearly two years after Houston narcotics officers invaded the home of Dennis Tuttle and Rhogena Nicholas based on a fraudulent search warrant and shot them both dead, we still don’t have a clear picture of what happened that day. Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo, despite his pose as an avatar of transparency and accountability, has not told us, and the city has been vigorously resisting Nicholas’ relatives as they try to find out why she died.
This week, Harris County Probate Court Judge Jerry Simoneaux dealt a blow to the city’s stonewalling by scheduling a hearing at which he will consider a request by Nicholas’ mother and brother to depose the supervisors who were in charge of the Houston Police Department’s Narcotics Division at the time of the January 2019 raid. The city unsuccessfully urged a state appeals court to intervene, then unsuccessfully asked the Texas Supreme Court to overturn that decision.
“They basically claimed that the court which handles wrongful death cases didn’t have jurisdiction to consider a wrongful death investigation case,” Michael Doyle, an attorney representing the Nicholas family, told the Houston Press. “That’s why the Court of Appeals kicked it out very quickly, because that’s kind of silly.”
Here is what we do know about the deadly raid at 7815 Harding Street, based on public statements and court documents:
• The investigation of Tuttle and Nicholas began with a false tip from a neighbor who described them as dangerous drug dealers.
• Veteran Houston narcotics officer Gerald Goines conducted an investigation so cursory that he did not even know the names of his targets. In the affidavit supporting his application for a no-knock search warrant, he described Tuttle as “a white male, whose name is unknown.”
• Goines, who has been charged with murder, document tampering, and federal civil rights violations, lied in his warrant application, describing an imaginary heroin purchase by a nonexistent confidential informant.
• Tuttle and Nicholas had no criminal records, and the search discovered no evidence of drug dealing.
• Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg—whose office has charged Goines, Bryant, and four other officers, including three supervisors, with a litany of felonies—says the fraud that killed Tuttle and Nicholas reflects “a pattern and practice of lying and deceit” within the Narcotics Division, where cops commonly built cases on fabrications that were either overlooked or abetted by supervisors. “Goines and others could never have preyed on our community the way they did without the participation of their supervisors,” Ogg said in July. “Every check and balance in place to stop this type of behavior was circumvented.”
After investigating the circumstances that led to the Harding Street raid, Ogg’s office is looking into the way the warrant was served. Nicholas’ family also wants answers. Here are some of the unresolved questions:
Why was the raid approved?
Supervisors apparently did not notice or did not care that Goines, who had a history of questionable te
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