6 former Houston cops indicted after deadly drug raid

The 2019 raid led to the deaths of 2 homeowners and injured 5 cops

St. John Barned-Smith
Houston Chronicle

HARRIS COUNTY, Texas. — A Harris County grand jury on Thursday indicted six former Houston police narcotics officers charged with crimes stemming from an investigation into a fatal 2019 drug raid, District Attorney Kim Ogg said.

Grand jurors returned indictments against case agent Gerald Goines and his former partner, Steven Bryant, as well as four others: former Lt. Robert Gonzales, Sgts. Clemente Reyna and Thomas Wood, and Goines’ old partner, Hodgie Armstrong. All of the officers retired in the months after the raid.

Photo/Houston Police Department

“These indictments reinforce our decision to prosecute the graft, greed and corruption in this troubled Houston police division,” Ogg said. “We look forward to presenting all the evidence in a courtroom to a jury and the people of Harris County.”

Ogg previously charged the former officers in July with 15 felony charges, including lying on search warrants and other documents as part of a scheme to enrich themselves, or mishandling department finances.

Prosecutors can file charges directly, but they must later be affirmed by a grand jury. Thursday’s indictments make official the charges Ogg announced earlier in July. The grand jury also issued two additional charges against Hodgie Armstrong – an additional tampering charge and a charge of aggregate theft by a public servant.

Because the alleged misconduct occurred during the scope of the former officers’ jobs, they are being represented by their union, said Doug Griffith, vice president of the Houston Police Officers’ Union.

“My former members look forward to their day in court,” he said, adding that he was troubled by allegations the six had been treated differently from other officers brought before a grand jury.

The indictments are the latest to emerge in the investigation into the Jan. 28, 2019, Harding Street raid, which led to the deaths of homeowners Dennis Tuttle, 59, and Rhogena Nicholas, 58. Five HPD officers were injured in the raid.

Ogg previously accused the sergeants of lying in documents by stating falsely that they witnessed the undercover officers handle drug transactions, Ogg said. She also accused the officers of lying in government documents to enrich themselves by boosting each other’s overtime hours — a move Ogg called “straight-up graft.”

The grand jury indictments mirrored the previously announced charges, but grand jurors filed two additional indictments against Armstrong: one for tampering with a government record and one for aggregate theft by a public servant.

Houston police officers had accused Ogg of filing the charges as a political ploy to win public favor before the November elections. The indictments — formal charges, not formal adjudications of guilt or innocence — signal grand jurors agreed there was sufficient evidence to charge the former officers.

Goines and Bryant had already been charged in state and federal court. Goines is charged with felony murder and tampering charges in state court, and civil rights violations and tampering charges in federal court. If convicted, he could spend the rest of his life in prison. Bryant is charged with tampering in both state and federal court.

Five of the six officers have been indicted with tampering with government records and aggregate theft by a public servant. Gonzales received one indictment of misapplication of fiduciary property, for reckless handling of police department funds.

Criminal complaints previously filed in the case show investigators found that “multiple times” Gonzales acted contrary to the police department’s general orders, “resulting in thousands of dollars of HPD funds being disbursed without proper authorization or verification.”

The documents also allege that Goines listed himself as present while executing search warrants — when he was miles away — and then requested overtime. Goines routinely inflated his overtime records, the documents allege, wrongly claiming thousands of dollars for hours he did not work.

The charges come as the Houston department is responding to calls for more transparency in the wake of a spate of officer-involved shootings and an audit of the narcotics department that Houston Chief Art Acevedo refused for months to release.

When Ogg announced the charges earlier in July, she said the charges came after officers “lied repeatedly” and “intentionally cast aside” HPD rules.

Prosecutors believe as many as 160 defendants — so far — may need to have their convictions overturned because of Goines’ alleged misconduct. Three people have already seen their convictions reversed.

©2020 the Houston Chronicle

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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