Houston, TX — The murder of an innocent Houston couple made national headlines in 2019 as police took to smearing their names and threatening those who didn't believe their official narrative. As the months passed, we learned that the Houston police department's raid on the home of Dennis Tuttle and Rhogena Nicholas was based on lies and they and their dog were murdered for no reason.
The following May, the case had reached a turning point after the family hired a forensics expert to examine the home and found that there is no evidence the officers encountered gunfire. Then, in a major move in August of 2019, the cop who lied to obtain the warrant for the raid—was charged with murder in the first degree, with several others charged shortly after. Then, in January of this year, a half dozen more officers have been charged, with four of them facing life in prison.
On Tuesday, Steven Bryant, 47, became the first officer to be convicted in the case after pleading guilty to obstructing justice by falsifying records that justified the deadly raid.
The attorney representing Nicholas' family said the news came as a relief.
"The family now has some hope that their efforts -- and it’s been a long fight that they’re not stop -- will hopefully start bearing some fruit and they’ll start getting some answers along with the rest of Houston," Mike Doyle said.
According to Houston Public Media, in a statement to Houston Public Media, Bryant’s lawyer, Andy Drumheller, wrote that the former officer’s guilty plea reflected “his decision to take responsibility for his conduct.”
“He very much regrets what happened,” Drumheller wrote.
He definitely should regret what happened as he and officer Gerald Goines lies led to the deaths of two innocent souls who were loved by many.
More officers, Clemente Reyna, Oscar Pardo, Thomas Wood, Nadeem Ashraf, Felipe Gallegos and retired officer Cedelle Lovings were indicted in January. All six men are or were members of the Narcotics Division.
"The consequences of corruption are two innocent ordinary people were killed in their homes, four police officers were shot, one of them paralyzed and now all of them will face Harris County jurors who will decide their fate," said Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg.
Officer Gallegos was indicted for murder in Tuttle's death and faces life in prison if convicted. Pardo, Lovings, and Ashraf were also indicted on charges of Engaging in Organized Criminal Activity, to wit: Aggregate Theft by a Public Servant ($30,000 or more but less than $150,000) and Tampering with a Governmental Record (1st degree). They too face life in prison if convicted.
Two other officers Wood and Reyna, were also indicted for organized criminal activity, theft and tampering. They face up to 20 years if convicted. On top of Bryant, a total of 10 other officers have been indicted for their role in the death of the couple.
In a strange twist, it was revealed in April that officer Goines, who is facing murder charges in the case, had arrested George Floyd in 2004. A petition was started to have Floyd posthumously pardoned and that request was submitted to the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles by a Harris County public defender. According to the details of the case, Goines arrested Floyd for selling $10 worth of crack. Floyd was subsequently sentenced and served 10 months in state jail after pleading guilty to the crime.
As we reported, these lying cops could be responsible for putting away hundreds of innocent people. Ogg previously announced that 14,000 cases tied to these officers could be tainted and more than 160 have already been dropped.
It is important to point out that the only likely reason these officers have been charged is because outside sources in the family stepped up and not only demanded answers but found them.
According to the forensics experts hired by the family of the victims, the officers who suffered bullet wounds during the raid on the innocent couple's home were shot by their fellow cops. This was a direct challenge to the original official narrative which states the officers were forced to kill the couple after the couple opened fire on them.
According to police, when they kicked in the door to the home they were forced to shoot the couple's dog, at which point Tuttle grabbed his .357 Magnum revolver and opened fire on the officers. Then, according to police, Nicholas moved in to disarm one of the officers, so they shot and killed her. However, according to the forensics experts, there is no evidence of this.
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Furthermore, the forensics team noted that police never really investigated the crime scene and left behind mountains of evidence showing what really transpired.
“It doesn’t appear that they took the basic steps to confirm and collect the physical evidence to know whether police were telling the truth,” said attorney Mike Doyle. “That’s the whole point of forensic scene documentation. That’s the basic check on people just making stuff up.”
The independent forensic investigation was conducted over the course of four days by forensic expert Mike Maloney, a retired supervisory special agent with the Naval Criminal Investigative Service.
His findings were nothing short of bombshell and found that the Houston police department engaged in a massive cover-up.
"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 (the narcotics squad) go and why has the city and (Houston police) fought so hard, still, to conceal the basic facts about what happened before, during and after the murderous raid?" Michael Doyle said in a statement.
As the Houston Chronicle reported, "though police said they started shooting when the dog lunged as they came through the door, Maloney’s forensics team found that the dog was shot and killed at the edge of the dining room, 15 feet from the front door. Authorities never picked up the shotgun shell when they collected evidence."
What's more, the forensics team found no evidence that bullets were fired from the back of the house, where police claim Tuttle opened fire on them, toward the front door, where police claim they were shot.
“The initial bullet trajectories appear to be somewhat contradictory,” said Louisiana-based attorney Chuck Bourque, who is also representing the Nicholas family. “We see no evidence that anybody inside the house was firing toward the door.”
The bullet holes through the front of the house, that police claim came from the inside, were actually fired from outside the home at least a foot away, into the house, according to the forensics team.
“You can’t see into the house from there,” Bourque said, “you’re firing into the house through a wall.”
Randomly firing through a wall into a house where your fellow cops are standing is a good way to shoot your fellow cops. While the forensics team didn't speculate, the evidence points to a story that unfolded far differently than what police are saying. And now, police are acting on the actual story.
It appears that when police kicked in the door and began shooting, the officers outside the home began firing into the home, shooting both cops and the innocent couple in the process. Thinking they were under fire from the couple, the other cops then shot and killed Tuttle and Nicholas.
Even more damning is the fact that the forensics team found no evidence Tuttle's .357 was ever fired in the home and the only bullets pulled from the walls were .223 and .45 caliber—which came from police.
The forensics team also noted that the amount of evidence left behind by police was overwhelming, which means there was no way they could've actually conducted a thorough enough investigation to determine if the officers were telling the truth.
“I can’t explain why all that was left — that sounds like something only the Houston Police Department and investigators can answer,” said former Houston Police Chief Charles A. McClelland. “If that evidence is connected to that shooting scene, I’d certainly be asking questions.”
Sam Walker, a criminal justice professor at the University of Nebraska at Omaha, called it “sloppy” and said the uncollected evidence raises other questions, according to the Chronicle.
“How many people have been convicted over the years as a result of sloppy investigations which failed to collect evidence that was there that would have exonerated the suspect?” he asked. “If they do it in this kind of a homicide case, what do they do in other kinds of investigations?”