Former police officer charged with murder for botched Houston raid

By Alex Dobuzinskis

By Alex Dobuzinskis

(Reuters) - Prosecutors charged a former Houston police officer on Friday with two counts of murder and another ex-officer with evidence tampering, in connection with a deadly drug raid that was based on bogus information, officials said.

The filing of criminal charges in the case comes as federal and local authorities investigate the January police raid at a house, which resulted in the shooting deaths of a couple who lived there and the wounding of four officers who took part in the operation.

Prosecutors are reviewing 14,000 criminal cases involving the drug squad that conducted the raid for evidence of improprieties, Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg told a news conference.

"You have heard chapter one," Ogg said. "Each day we uncover more and with each fact we work toward doing justice."

In January, then police officer Gerald Goines wrote in an affidavit to obtain a search warrant that an informant had bought heroin at the house, Ogg said.

On Jan. 28, Goines and his Houston narcotics squad entered the house without knocking, as allowed under the warrant.

In the chaos that followed, the house's occupant Dennis Tuttle, 59, opened fire on the officers, wounding four, and they returned fire, Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo told reporters on Friday, citing findings from his department's investigation. Tuttle's wife Rhogena Nicholas, 58, died along with him in the shootout.

After the raid, Goines admitted to investigators he had invented an allegation that a confidential informant bought drugs at the house, Ogg said.

Because the search warrant for the raid was based on that fabricated information provided to a judge and two people died, prosecutors have charged Goines with two counts of murder, she said. He faces a possible maximum sentence if convicted of life in prison.

Prosecutors also charged another former squad member, Steven Bryant, with evidence tampering for providing false information in a police report after the raid to support Goines, Ogg said. If convicted, Bryant could spend up to two years in prison.

Nicole DeBorde, an attorney for Goines, did not immediately return calls. It was not clear which attorney was representing Bryant.

Both Goines and Bryant, who have left the Houston Police Department, turned themselves in on Friday and a judge set bail at $300,000 for Goines and $50,000 for Bryant, the Houston Chronicle reported.

Goines was among those shot and wounded in the raid. Another officer, whose name has not been released, was paralyzed from the waist down, Acevedo said.

(Reporting by Alex Dobuzinskis in Los Angeles; editing by Bill Tarrant and Cynthia Osterman)

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting.