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By Phil Helsel and Associated Press
Houston’s police chief said the department will end “no-knock” warrants following a deadly drug raid in which two suspects were killed and several officers were injured.
The Jan. 28 raid on a home also resulted in four police officers being shot and injured. Last week, it was revealed that an affidavit to justify the warrant appears to contain “some material untruths or lies” and police Chief Art Acevedo said an officer will likely be criminally charged in the case.
“The no-knock warrants are going to go away like leaded gasoline in this city,” Acevedo said at a community meeting on Monday, according to the Associated Press. He said officers will need to request a special exemption from his office to conduct a no-knock raid.
Dennis Tuttle, 59, and Rhogena Nicholas, 58, were killed after police serving a warrant were fired upon, police have said.
Monday’s town hall meeting turned contentious and at times involved shouting, NBC affiliate KPRC of Houston reported.
“The family was murdered,” Eileen De Los Santos, a longtime friend of those killed in the raid, said during the meeting, according to the station. “I would like for someone to use the word ‘murdered,’ because they were murdered.”
The Harris County District Attorney’s Office has said that it is investigating every aspect of the incident. District Attorney Kim Ogg said at Monday’s meeting, “What charge is going to be presented will be based on the evidence and the evidence is still being collected,” according to KPRC.
Last week the local station obtained police documents that say the warrant was justified by a claim that a confidential informant purchased heroin at the home that was raided and that a weapon was observed there. But investigators have been unable to find that informant.
Narcotics Officer Gerald Goines provided the names of two confidential informants, but one said they did not work with Goines on that case, and the other said they purchased heroin from a different home at Goines’ direction five miles away, according to the documents.
Investigators interviewed everyone on a list of informants that had worked for Officer Goines and all denied making a buy for the officer from the Harding Street home or ever buying drugs from Tuttle or Nicholas, according to the documents. After the raid, police said they found several firearms at the home, along with marijuana and cocaine, but no heroin.
Goines, who prepared the search warrant, has since been suspended, according to Acevedo.
“I’m very confident we’re going to have criminal charges on one or more of the officers,” Acevedo said.
Goines was shot and wounded in the raid. His attorney, Nicole DeBorde, told KPRC that she believes Goines is “innocent of any crime,” and criticized comments by Acevedo about the case.
“I think it’s difficult to come to a fair, just conclusion when the chief law enforcement officer for the agency investigating the case is publicly making comments about how the case should end before the investigation has ended,” DeBorde said, according to the station.
Acevedo also announced a new policy for undercover officers to wear body cameras during raids.
Residents whose family members were killed in no-knock raids spoke out against the department for not investigating enough before using the tactic.
“I just want to see change, that’s it,” said Aurora Charles, whose 55-year-old brother was killed during a no-knock raid in 2013. “They’ve got to do their homework before they go in with these warrants.”
No-knock warrants have also been challenged in Little Rock, Arkansas. The city and its police department face a lawsuit alleging that officers use misleading or false information to justify unlawful drug raids, mostly against black residents.