DA threatens to subpoena Houston police in fatal drug raid

HOUSTON (AP) — Prosecutors on Thursday accused Houston police of dragging their feet in the ongoing investigation into a deadly January drug raid that killed a couple and injured five officers.

In a letter, the Harris County District Attorney’s Office threatened to issue subpoenas to Houston police in order to get department records on the use of confidential informants by officers involved in the raid.

The Jan. 28 raid came under scrutiny after allegations that one of the officers who was shot, Gerald Goines, lied about his use of a confidential informant in order to obtain the search warrant.

Goines had alleged in the search warrant that the informant had bought heroin at the home. But the informant told investigators no such drug buy took place. Police found small amounts of marijuana and cocaine in the home.

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“As you know, it has been more than six weeks since we requested this material in preparation for possible presentation to a grand jury. We have yet to receive confidential informant information,” Natasha Sinclair, a prosecutor, wrote in the letter.

Sinclair said the information is crucial to the district attorney’s office’s ongoing review of hundreds of warrants and drug buys done by the police department’s narcotics division.

In a Thursday statement, Police Chief Art Acevedo insisted that his department has cooperated with the D.A.’s office and FBI and would continue to do so. He said the department on May 15 forwarded to prosecutors its reports on its officer-involved shooting and criminal investigation, where he said “the matter remains.”

With regard to additional records sought by prosecutors not specifically related to the raid “and dating back many years (Houston Police Department) has and will continue to work cooperatively” with the district attorney’s office.

Goines and another officer connected to the raid, Steven Bryant, were relieved of duty after the deadly shooting. Both officers later retired.

Prosecutors have dismissed more than 30 court cases linked to Goines and Bryant as part of an ongoing review of more than 2,000 of their cases.

Sinclair said if police don’t turn over the requested information by Monday, the department will be served with grand jury subpoenas on Tuesday for files related to all confidential informants used from Jan. 1, 2014 to the present.

During the raid, four officers were shot in a gunfight that killed 59-year-old Dennis Tuttle and 58-year-old Rhogena Nicholas, the couple who lived in the home. A fifth officer injured his knee.

The FBI is conducting an investigation to determine whether any civil rights were violated as a result of the raid and shooting.

Family and friends of Tuttle and Nicholas have said the two, who were married for 20 years, were not criminals. They have angrily dismissed the allegations the couple was selling heroin and had fired on officers while defending an illicit business.

Attorneys for the families of the slain couple are conducting an independent investigation of the raid.

Autopsy reports released last month showed that benzoylecgonine, a metabolite of cocaine, was found in Nicholas’ bloodstream, while metabolites of marijuana were found in Tuttle’s bloodstream.

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