The police chief’s press briefing remarks, where he misstated the facts, have led to a flurry of inflammatory conspiracy theories
The January 28th drug raid at 7815 Harding Street turned out badly with two drug suspects killed in a shootout with the cops, four of whom were hit by the suspect’s gunfire.
The raid came after a reliable confidential informant purchased some black tar heroin at that alleged address. He informed his handler that inside the house there were a bunch of plastic baggies containing black tar heroin. The officers found no heroin. All they found was 18 grams of marijuana and 1.5 grams of cocaine. The couple who occupied the house, disabled Navy veteran Dennis Tuttle,59, and Rhogena Nicholas, 58, his wife of 21-years had no criminal record except for an old hot check charge against Nicholas which had been dismissed.
Houston’s police chief, Art Acevedo, held several press briefings on the raid. He implied the Harding Street house had a sophisticated surveillance system which should have alerted the occupants about the police. The house did not have any security cameras on the outside. Acevedo also said Tuttle should have known it was cops busting in his door because the police turned on the siren and flashing lights of a cop car parked outside. Since this was a ‘no knock’ raid, that seems highly unlikely. He claimed that Tuttle’s neighbors thanked him for getting rid of the drug house. But the Houston Chronicle interviewed every one of the neighbors, each describing Tuttle and his wife as good citizens. As for it being a drug house, they said, “They never had company” and “There was never traffic at that house. Never” and “They never noticed suspicious activity.” Several times Acevedo said the raid took place at 7815 Hardy Street, instead of 7815 Harding Street.
The raided house, as described in the search warrant affidavit, was a well-kept one-story cottage. A reporter did check out the 7815 Hardy Street address where he observed a dilapidated two-story house with its upstairs windows broken. The house was surrounded by a wrought iron fence and it had a number of high-tech security cameras on the outside. To the reporter that looked like a drug house. He thought the cops hit the wrong house.
I’ve been on many narcotic raids and not one of them led to a shootout, even though in most cases the suspects had firearms. On one raid we did have to shoot a pit bull that was about to take some bites out of one officer. It all boils down to meticulous planning, pre-raid orientation of all participants and careful execution of the raid. On every occasion we found a large quantity of narcotics, and usually a substantial amount of cash at the place we raided. In one raid we found a large bag of meth tied to the suspect’s penis. In other words, when raiding a drug house one would expect to find evidence of it actually being a place where narcotics are sold.
Search warrant affidavits are only as good as the integrity of the officer(s) composing that document and the prosecutor who assisted in its composition. Was the search warrant in the Houston raid based on a careless worded or worse, fabricated affidavit? I certainly hope not.
As for Acevedo, he was damaged goods when Mayor ‘Slyvestor’ Turner hired him. Reports from Austin indicate he was about to be canned over a rape kit scandal – the kits were piling up untested and the head of the sex crimes unit was punished for not lying about it. Allegedly, Acevedo removed the sergeant of Austin PD’s sex crimes unit for refusing his order to say rapes were going unsolved because the victims refused to testify, a blatant lie. Instead she told the truth, that rapes were not being solved because the rape kits were not being tested. And quicker than you can say Art Acevedo, she was out as head of the sex crimes unit.
Now Acevedo has embarrassed HPD and the city of Houston. His press briefing remarks, where he misstated the facts, have led to a flurry of inflammatory conspiracy theories, many of which accuse the Houston cops of murdering two innocent people.
You do not need to defend what’s right and you cannot defend what’s wrong. That seems to be a lesson Acevedo either ignored or never learned, as evidenced by the reckless way he responded to questions thrown at him by reporters.
Acevedo should be fired regardless of how the investigation into the Harding Street drug raid falls out.