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Houston Police Department, City Hit with Two Lawsuits Over Deadly Police Raid

— January 31, 2021

The city of Houston was recently hit with two lawsuits over a botched police raid.

The city of Houston and its police department were recently hit with two lawsuits filed by the families of a woman and man who were “killed in a botched police raid.” According to the suit, which was filed on Wednesday, “Rhogena Nicholas and her husband Dennis Tuttle were killed along with their dog when a tactical team raided their home on January 28, 2019.” The raid was carried out after an officer “alleged a criminal informant bought heroin from a man at Tuttle and Nicholas’ home.” The officer further claimed the Tuttle had a gun.

Greyscale image of person pointing a gun at viewer; image by Max Kleinen, via
Greyscale image of person pointing a gun at viewer; image by Max Kleinen, via

During the raid, four officers were shot and one was left paralyzed. An investigation was launched into the matter and 12 officers have been indicted. One of those officers was Gerald Goines. Goines was “accused of lying to obtain a warrant.” Steven Bryant was also indicted and is accused of tampering with government records. The officers all face a “variety of charges including murder, tampering with government records and engaging in organized criminal activity.”

In filing the suit, the families said Tuttle and Nicholas were not involved in selling drugs. In fact, the “couple was well known and liked by their neighbors.”

Mike Doyle is representing the Nicholas family. He said the family opted to file the suit because the statute of limitations is almost up and added the family “has been asking for the physical evidence, an explanation and an apology from Acevedo for 18 months.” The family’s suit “names the city of Houston, Police Chief Art Acevedo and 13 officers as defendants” and 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.” Doyle said:

“They’ve been put in a position where the only way we’re going to get to the bottom or the top of what really is going on and continues to go on in this city and with this police department is by filing a civil action.”

When commenting on the suit, John Nicholas, Rhogena Nicholas’ brother said the deaths have been particularly difficult for his mother, who is 86-years-old and survived COVID-19. He said, “The hardest part I think is to my mama. She still wants to know exactly what happened.”

The suit filed by the Tuttle estate names the city and 13 officers as defendants. The estate alleges “unlawful search and seizure, excessive and deadly force and municipal liability.” Boyd Smith is representing the Tuttle family. When discussing the suit, he said:

“We have spent two years trying to get this family answers to their questions and the city has stonewalled us at every turn…If Dennis did shoot at officers, it’s because — as a law-abiding citizen with no heroin in his house — he thought his home was under attack by criminals. He had a right to fight back if that’s what happened.”

When asked about the incident and the allegations, Police Chief Acevedo said he is “disheartened the process to indict the officers took so long.” He added:

“I have said many times that the other officers involved in the incident…had no involvement in obtaining the warrant and responded appropriately to the deadly threat posed to them during its service.” 

Mayor Sylvester Turner chimed in and said the “raid is a case with a lot of intricacies.” He added:

“There are a lot of complexities and I think you have to be very careful before you join in conclusions…At the end of the day, we’ll see where the facts land.”


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