Hearing to present new findings in botched Harding Street raid delayed

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Friday, December 18, 2020
Family of woman killed in raid to present new findings
Nearly two years after a woman and her husband were killed in a botched raid, her family says they are still fighting to bring new findings to light in the investigation.

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- A hearing expected to present new findings of an independent investigation into the botched Harding Street drug raid has been delayed.

Representatives of Rhogena Nicholas' family said the city of Houston forced a delay in Friday's scheduled hearing in Harris County Probate Court, with a last-minute attempt to remove the case to federal court. Nicholas and her husband Dennis Tuttle died inside their home during the HPD raid on Jan. 28, 2019.

According to Nicholas' legal team, the federal court indicated that it would not rule before the probate court hearing that was scheduled in the afternoon.

During the incident, officers were serving a drug warrant that was later determined to be based on the word of an informant who never actually went to the house.

Since the raid, six former Houston police officers have been charged.

PREVIOUS STORY: Family of woman killed in HPD raid says city owes them full explanation of what happened

WATCH: Texas House of Representatives member Gene Wu calls for change after Wednesday's sudden release of the Harding Street audit.

Nicholas' family and their attorney were intending to introduce their findings and present witness testimony from a family member, from expert witnesses and from a representative of the Houston Police Department.

The family says they are fighting to get the 911 records related to the raid. They're also trying to find out what physical materials were removed from the scene.

In September 2020, Nicholas' relatives filed a brief asking the Texas Supreme Court to "force an end to the 19-month coverup of the incident by the City of Houston."

An attorney for the family claims the city does not have any legal precedent to withhold the testimony and evidence from relatives.

Attorney Michael Patrick Doyle asked, "What is the city so desperate to hide? Houstonians deserve to see what HPD did before, during, and after the out-of-control and unjustified attack on Rhogena at her home."

Nicholas' brother, John, said a few months ago, "Our family's search for the truth of what happened to Rhogena will continue - no matter what. Once again, she did not deserve to be executed in her own home by the Houston Police Department. The mayor and chief of police owe our family an explanation of what happened in the raid and with Narcotics Squad 15. Fighting us is not the answer. We are not going away."

Family of botched Harding Raid victim claims HPD is 'uncooperative'

In July, HPD released its report of the investigation behind the botched raid. State lawmakers blasted the Houston Police Department for investigating its own, claiming that audit was only a small part of a bigger problem.

READ: Full detailed narcotics division report

At the time, State Representative Gene Wu claimed, "This entire Narcotics Division audit debacle has been handled in the most unprofessional and obtuse way possible."

While the investigation is still ongoing, representatives believe this was an entire rogue division's wrongdoing.

"I'm more than just disappointed in what we've seen in the result of all of this. I'm disappointed that we had to coax this tiny bit of transparency. We just get a tiny little peek into the systemic issues this department has," State Rep. John Rosenthal said.

Criminal felony charges have been filed against former Houston narcotics officers by the Harris County District Attorney's Office in the ongoing investigation of the botched raid. Allegations include using false information to get judges to sign search warrants, falsifying time sheets, putting false information in offense reports, and falsifying government documents to steal, prosecutors have determined.


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6 former HPD officers charged with 15 felonies linked to deadly botched raid

Family of woman killed in botched raid says HPD is 'uncooperative'