'Courage under fire' HPD chief recalls officers' struggle with suspects during shootout in SE Houston

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Tuesday, January 29, 2019
Police chief updates wounded officers' conditions
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Chief Art Acevedo gave an update on the conditions of the HPD officers injured while serving a warrant.

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo said a senior officer shot while serving a narcotics warrant at a home later passed a note to him at the hospital saying he had to jump in there when other officers were down.

The 54-year-old officer and 32-year veteran of the force was one of four officers shot during the incident Monday at the house at 7800 Harding in southeast Houston.

A fifth officer suffered a knee injury, which required surgery.

Acevedo released more information at a press conference Tuesday morning about how the shooting unfolded.

Shortly before 5 p.m., narcotics officers arrived at the house after receiving a tip from a neighbor that the suspects were dealing drugs, including black tar heroin.

When the officers entered the home, they immediately came under fire, Acevedo said.

All of the officers involved are undercover narcotics officers. Their names will not be released.

Acevedo said the first officer who went through the door had a shotgun and was immediately charged by a large pit bull.

The officer shot the dog and killed it.

At the same time, the first suspect, identified as 59-year-old Dennis Tuttle, came from around the back and opened fire with a .357 Magnum revolver, hitting the first officer in the shoulder.

That's when the second suspect, Tuttle's wife 58-year-old Rhogena Nicholas, reached over the officer and started making a move for his shotgun.

Back-up officers fired at Nicholas, hitting her.

Both Nicholas and Tuttle were killed in a shootout with police.

RELATED: What we know about the 2 suspects killed in officer-involved shooting in SE Houston

According to Acevedo, once two officers were down and a third was shot, the other officers left their cover positions to pull their fellow officers out of harm's way.

The 54-year-old senior officer breached the door when he knew his partners were down.

"I had to get in there because I knew my guys were down," the officer later said in a note to Acevedo.

"That just speaks volumes as to what this man... just his courage under fire," Acevedo said of the officer.

This was the third time in the officer's career that he had been shot. He was shot before in 1992 and 1997.

All the officers were taken to Memorial Hermann Hospital.

The 54-year-old officer shot is in critical condition.

WHAT WE KNOW: Details on the injured officers

A 50-year-old sergeant and 25-year veteran of the force, who was shot in the face, is likely to be released from the hospital Tuesday.

A second 50-year-old sergeant, who injured his knee and required surgery, is recovering and will likely be sent home this week, said Dr. Michele McNutt, Chief of Trauma at Memorial Hermann & UT Health.

He is a 27-year veteran of the force.

A 33-year-old officer, who was shot in the shoulder, was released from the hospital on Monday. He is a 10-year veteran of the force.

A fifth officer, who was also shot in the face, underwent surgery Monday night. He'll need multiple surgeries in the future, Dr. McNutt said.

TIMELINE: 4 officers shot serving narcotics warrant

Acevedo said the police executed a search warrant Monday night and recovered marijuana and other drugs, including a white powdery substance believed to be cocaine or Fentanyl.

Police also recovered several weapons.

The officers will be placed on administrative leave, which is standard for police after an officer-involved shooting.

The investigation is ongoing.

RAW: HPD Chief and doctor give update on officers' conditions

Gov. Greg Abbott said the shooting highlights the "service and sacrifice our brave men and women in law enforcement make every day to keep us safe."