US Another officer charged with murder in fatal shooting of couple during Houston drug raid
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Six current and former Houston police officers were indicted Monday, one on a murder charge, in an investigation that began after officers killed a couple during a drug raid in 2019.
Officer Felipe Gallegos faces one count of murder inin what police have characterized as a shootout after officers broke down his door. Officers also fatally shot Tuttle’s wife, Rhogena Nicholas.
The five other indicted officers were charged in an alleged plot to fraudulently increase their overtime pay, Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg announced. Three previously indicted officers also face new charges in what Ogg characterized as a long-term scheme.
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“The consequences of corruption are that two innocent, ordinary people were killed in their homes, four police officers were shot, one of them paralyzed,” she said Monday.
With, 12 officers have been charged in an investigation that began after the raid and expanded to examine the practices of the police department’s narcotics division. Two of the 12 officers face murder charges, and a third is charged with tampering with government records related to the shooting.
All officers whose attorneys responded said they intend to contest the charges, and several indicated that they think the prosecutions are politically motivated.
Charging documents accuse Gallegos of “intentionally and knowingly” killing Tuttle, 59, during the execution of a no-knock search warrant Jan. 28, 2019, as part of a probe into heroin trafficking. But police said they did not find heroin, and an internal department investigation found that an informant referenced in the search warrant denied buying drugs at the home.
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A lawyer for one of the families said a lawsuit was filed because the statute of limitations is almost up. Attorneys say families sought answers for 2 yearsThe complaint filed by the Nicholas family names the city of Houston, Police Chief Art Acevedo and 13 officers as defendants. The Nicholas family's complaint includes federal civil rights claims against the individual officers for excessive deadly force and unlawful search and seizure, a municipal liability claim against the city and Acevedo, in addition to state law claims including wrongful death and survival.
Retired officer Gerald Goines was charged with two counts of murder in August 2019 as prosecutors accused him of lying to obtain the warrant. Another retired officer, Steven Bryant, was charged with providing false information in a police report about the raid. Both have pleaded not guilty and also face ongoing federal cases.
Those officers are the only ones who should face charges in the shooting, Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo said Monday in defense of Gallegos.
“I have said many times that the other officers involved in the incident, including the officer indicted today, had no involvement in obtaining the warrant and responded appropriately to the deadly threat posed to them during its service,” AcevedoNearly 250 women have been fatally shot by police since 2015 .
That deadly threat, police say, came when roughly 18 officers entered Tuttle and Nicholas’s home while announcing themselves. A pit bull charged at an officer, who shot and killed the dog. Tuttle then shot that officer and three others, Acevedo has told reporters.
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Nicholas, 58, reached for an officer’s gun, police say. Seven officers, including Gallegos, opened fire in response.
Gallegos faces the possibility of life in prison if convicted. He paid $50,000 bail Tuesday and is not in custody, court records show.
His attorney, Rusty Hardin, praised him as a hero Tuesday and said Gallegos did not fire his weapon until Tuttle had shot two other officers. Hardin and his co-counsel sought to distance their defense of Gallegos from the movement for racial justice in policing, saying that several of the officers in the raid were racial minorities, while Tuttle and Nicholas were White.
Ogg’s decision to prosecute Gallegos was evidence that she has anti-police agenda, Hardin alleged.
“To charge a man with murder because you’ve decided on a new flavor of things to be against, namely the police, is factually and morally wrong,” he said.
The Houston Police Officers’ Union and an attorney for Tuttle’s family did not respond to messages seeking comment on the indictments.
Mike Doyle, an attorney for Nicholas’s family, expressed gratitude for the latest charges but accused the city of withholding evidence in the case.
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“These latest indictments confirm some of the findings from the families’ independent investigation, and yet again raises two questions: how high does the corruption of HPD Narcotics Squad 15 go and why has the City and HPD fought so hard, still, to conceal the basic facts about what happened before, during and after the murderous raid?” he said in a statement.Two people were killed in a botched drug raid. Investigators say the official story was a lie.
In addition to the charge against Gallegos, current officers Oscar Pardo and Nadeem Ashraf and retired officer Cedell Lovings face first-degree felony charges of engaging in organized criminal activity by stealing from the city and tampering with records in the alleged overtime scheme. Officers Frank Medina and Griff Maxwell face second-degree charges of a similar nature.
An attorney for Ashraf, Daniel Werlinger, said he was confident that his client would be exonerated.
“It is unfortunate that he has found himself in the crosshairs of a district attorney who values press conferences and sound bites over evidence,” Werlinger said in a statement.
Christopher Downey, who represents Lovings, echoed the accusation that the charges were motivated by publicity.
“These charges reflect the very worst form of prosecution,” Downey wrote in an email. “Cedell Lovings has practically given his life in service to Houston. Now this District Attorney wants to try to take his dignity as well.”
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Nathan Hennigan, Maxwell’s attorney, said Maxwell is a “dedicated public servant” and his prosecution is politically driven.
Attorneys for Pardo and Medina did not respond to a request for comment.
Retired officers Clemente Reyna and Thomas Wood, who were charged in July 2020 with third-degree felonies, also face new charges of first-degree engaging in organized criminal activity. Officer Hodgie Armstrong, also retired, was previously charged with a state jail felony and is now also charged with a second-degree offense.
A lawyer for Reyna, Lisa Andrews, said Ogg was trying to criminalize administrative errors in “a ludicrous perversion of the law.” Ed McClees, Woods’s attorney, said the officer would be exonerated.
Paul Doyle, Armstrong’s attorney, accused the prosecutor’s former chief investigator of charging Armstrong because he is African American. Ogg’s office this montha Facebook comment that appeared to show the investigator celebrating the Confederate flag.
All current officers who were charged have been taken off duty, Acevedo said.
Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner (D) said he hopes the criminal cases will proceed “expeditiously.”
“We’ll let the process run its course,” heat an unrelated news conference. “And then we will see what the ultimate conclusions will be.”
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Interstate 10 near Las Cruces was closed in both directions into Thursday night following a deadly shootout that was captured on video. Your browser does not support this video The suspect, who has not been identified, shot the state police officer on Interstate 10 before fleeing east. About 40 miles later, the suspect was killed in a shootout with Las Cruces police officers and Doña Ana County Sheriff's deputies. © Nathan J. Fish/Sun-News A New Mexico State Police mobile command post is stationed near the Motel Boulevard exit off Interstate 10 on Thursday, Feb. 4, 2021.