This week the Houston city council approved another $1.7 million for legal fees related to the botched Harding Street Raid. The civil rights lawsuit stems from the 2019 narcotics raid that led to the murders of Dennis Tuttle and Rhogena Nicholas. 

The raid was based on an alleged lie from Officer Gerald Goines, the lead narcotics officer on the raid. 

In order to obtain a warrant, Goines claimed that a drug informant purchased drugs from Nicholas and Tuttle at their home. Another officer, Steven Bryant, pleaded guilty to falsifying a government document; he edited a report to cover for Goines. 

Based on Goines’ claim and the department’s cover up, a dozen officers entered the home with a no-knock warrant and killed the couple and their dog. No drugs were found in the home. A subsequent investigation found that the premise was untrue and the residents didn’t sell drugs.

Goines and three officers were shot during the raid. While in the hospital, Goines claimed that he purchased drugs from the couple the night before based on the information from an informant. Bryant, knowing that was untrue, wrote a false report to back up Goines’ story.

The total cost for the defense contract after this week’s approval from council is $2.95 million. It is ultimately for defense of the city from a lawsuit filed by the family of the deceased against both the city and former Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo.  

Houston has implemented reforms to avoid a repeat of this situation, including requiring the Chief to sign off on no-knock warrants and creating a specialized unit to execute them. Additionally, Goines has been charged with two counts of murder for the raid, another officer was charged with murder, and ten other officers face charges in connection with the incident.

Mayor John Whitmire said, “The administration heard you, the police department heard you, and now we want the citizens to hear that some bad practices have been reformed.”

All members of council who were present voted in favor of the contract amendment except Councilmember Tiffany Thomas, who was the lone “no” vote.

Charles Blain

Charles Blain is the president of Urban Reform and Urban Reform Institute. A native of New Jersey, he is based in Houston and writes on municipal finance and other urban issues.