City of Houston OKs $2.95M to defend HPD, former chief Art Acevedo in Harding Street civil lawsuit

Shannon Ryan Image
Thursday, January 25, 2024
Houston OKs $2.95M to defend HPD, Acevedo in Harding Street civil suit
Only one Houston city council member voted against approving $1.7 million for the legal defense fund in a Harding Street raid civil lawsuit.

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- On Wednesday, Houston City Council voted to give more money to the legal team defending the city and its former chief of police against a lawsuit put forth by the families of a couple killed in a no-knock raid in 2019.

An FBI investigation determined the no-knock search warrant was obtained through a lie told by Gerald Goines, the lead narcotics officer on the case.

Goines claimed a confidential informant had bought drugs from Rhogena Nicholas and Dennis Tuttle's Harding Street home in southeast Houston. But the investigation revealed that never happened and the couple was not selling drugs.

Still, more than a dozen Houston police officers entered their home with a no-knock warrant, opening fire, and killing the couple and their dog.

FULL COVERAGE: Previous ABC13 stories on the Harding Street raid

Goines has since been charged with falsifying documents and is no longer with the Houston Police Department.

Nicholas' and Tuttle's families are suing the police department and former Police Chief Art Acevedo. On Wednesday, the city council approved giving up to $1.7 million to the legal firm defending them. Previously, about $1.25 million had been authorized, meaning approximately $2.95 million is now authorized for their legal defense.

City Attorney Arturo Michel said the "city's contention is that this was an officer who was simply lying." Still, he added measures have been put in place to prevent similar incidents from happening.

"One, the chief has to approve a no-knock warrant. Number two, it's executed by a specialized unit, a tactical team with training and not the investigative team that is working up the case. And number three, the warrant is going to only be signed by a district court judge and not a magistrate judge or a municipal court judge," Michel said.

The measures appeared to appease most council members. Each voted to approve the defense money, with the exception of District F Council Member Tiffany Thomas. ABC13 contacted Thomas requesting more information on her vote and is awaiting a response.

Last Friday, the City of Austin announced that Acevedo would take on a new role as an assistant city manager overseeing its police department. But on Tuesday, he announced on X, formerly known as Twitter, that he was not accepting the job, citing backlash.

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