When a Houston couple and their dog were killed during a botched no-knock drug raid in 2019, the incident kicked off an investigation leading to murder charges and the discovery of an elaborate scheme to steal overtime pay—for a total of 12 officers now indicted.
Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg announced Monday that Houston PD officer Felipe Gallegos has been charged with first-degree murder in the deaths of 59-year-old Dennis Tuttle and his wife, 58-year-old Rhogena Nicholas, killed in a January 2019 drug raid on their home. The couple’s dog was also killed, and several officers were shot in the chaos. Gallegos is the second officer, after officer Gerald Goines in 2019, to be charged with the deaths of the couple. If convicted, Gallegos could be sentenced to life in prison.
Eight other members of the HPD were indicted Monday, including five active officers and three retired officers who were indicted on other charges last year, charged in connection to a scheme to falsify overtime hours, which was discovered during the investigation of the deadly raid. The overtime scheme dates back to at least 2017, according to NPR affiliate Houston Public Media. The officers have been charged with tampering with government records, theft by a public servant, and first- and second-degree charges of engaging in organized crime. An additional officer was charged with misapplication of fiduciary property in July 2020.
“The consequences of corruption are that two innocent people and their dog were shot to death in their home by police,” Ogg said during a press conference Monday. “Four officers were shot, one paralyzed, and now all of them will face jurors who will determine their fate.”
On January 28, 2019, Houston police officers executed a no-knock warrant on the Tuttle residence after officer Goines claimed to have received a tip that the couple was selling heroin from their home. As the officers barged into the home, they were met with gunfire. The officers returned fire, killing the couple and their dog. Goines was one of five officers injured during the raid.
In February 2019, an internal Houston Police Department investigation found that Goines fabricated the details of the lead that confirmed the couple was selling drugs in order to obtain a no-knock warrant from a judge. Further investigation of the narcotics unit revealed the scheme to falsely secure overtime pay. A total of 12 police officers have been indicted in connection to the corruption investigation, according to Ogg.
Since May 2019, prosecutors with the DA’s office have been reviewing about 14,000 cases tied to the disgraced narcotics unit. Ogg told reporters that the two-year investigation of the corruption case will be a game-changer for how police-related prosecutions are handled in Houston and across the country.
“We’re looking at the cases we filed, how we filed them, and how they’re handled, in a new light,” Ogg said. “There will be more to come on cases that are pending, on past convictions and possible exonerations.”
The Houston Police Department did not immediately return VICE News’ request for comment, but HPD Police Chief Art Acevedo advised that officer Gallegos wasn’t directly involved in the corruption that led to the deaths of the couple, implying that he should face less-severe charges.
“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,” he said in a statement Monday. “Nonetheless, I respect the grand jury process and hope this case will go to trial as soon as possible.”