Last month, four Houston Police officers were shot and wounded during a no-knock assault on a home while serving a drug warrant. A fifth officer sustained a knee injury. Two suspects were killed in the shootout when about a dozen narcotics officers raided a home in southeast Houston in order to serve a search warrant.
As police breached the front door, a pit bull lunged at them and an officer shot the dog. A man in the home then began shooting at police, and a number of officers returned fire.
According to Acevedo, 59-year-old Dennis Tuttle and 58-year-old Rhogena Nicholas were killed after they attacked police. The dog also was killed.
Acevedo said that Nicholas was shot trying to take a weapon away from a wounded officer who had fallen on the couch inside the home, which belonged to Tuttle.
Now, Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo says his department will no longer execute no-knock warrants.
“The no-knock warrant’s going to go away, kind of like leaded gasoline in our city,” Acevedo said. He added that raids that stem from those warrants would only be used in very limited cases — and that they would not be used to nab people suspected of dealing small amounts of drugs.
“You’re going to see those going away,” he said.
Acevedo’s re-thinking of the no-knock raids may have also been influenced by the fact that the officer who applied for the no-knock warrant that resulted in the January shootout allegedly lied in order to get a judge to sign off on it.
As chron.com reports . . .
In a hastily called press conference, Police Chief Art Acevedo said Gerald Goines, the veteran narcotics case agent at the center of the controversy, will likely face criminal charges. The internal investigation revealed he allegedly lied about using a confidential informant to conduct an undercover buy at the residence on Harding Street. The buy led to a raid and a fatal gunfight at the house the next day, killing Dennis Tuttle, 59, and Rhogena Nicholas, 58, and injuring five Houston Police Department officers. …
In the initial HPD warrant, Goines wrote that he monitored a buy at the home by a confidential informant, who identified the substance that was purchased as heroin and said there was a 9mm handgun in the house. Police obtained a no-knock warrant —allowing them to enter unannounced — and burst into the small southeast home the next day to a hail of gunfire.
At the end of the shootout, both Tuttle and Nicholas had been shot to death, and five officers were injured — four by gunfire. Police found 18 grams of marijuana — about half an ounce — and a little more than a gram of white powder, but no heroin or trafficking paraphernalia. After the fatal operation, neighbors pushed back on assertions by police the residence was a drug house.
Goines, a 30-year police veteran, was one of the four officers who were shot during the raid. The FBI has opened an investigation as a result of allegations that Officer Goines lied on the affidavit requesting the warrant.
According to NPR, Acevedo faced a hostile crowd at a town hall meeting Monday night, “who vented their anger over the deadly raid and what they called the police’s overreliance on informants and searches rather than investigation.”
Acknowledging the anger and skepticism in the room, the chief said, “I promise you all, if you’ll have the patience, you are going to see good come out at the end” of the police investigation into the case and a review of its policies.
The deadly raid was not captured by body cameras; in the coming weeks, Acevedo said, his officers will begin the practice of wearing them during warrant-based entries to houses and other buildings.
No-knock raids are inherently dangerous, both for the targets of the raids and the officers executing them. In the heat of the moment, occupants have no way of knowing who just broke down their door and is charging into their home.
In a 2015 raid in Corpus Christi, Texas, the occupant opened fire on officers in a no-knock raid, shooting three of them. Again, there was no body cam video of the raid. The homeowner somehow survived the shootout and was later prosecuted for attempted capital murder and aggravated assault. He was ultimately found not guilty.
The use of no-knock raids should be minimized wherever possible. And the failure to use bodycams, as in the Corpus Christi and now Houston raids, only contributes to conspiracy theories and accusations that the officers had something to hide.