Family of Rhogena Nicholas alleges HPD using overtime fraud allegations as raid cover-up

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- New court documents filed on behalf of the family of a woman killed in a botched Houston Police Department raid in 2019 allege that HPD is trying to use an unrelated matter to cover up her wrongful death.

The filing also accuses the Harris County District Attorney's Office of not reviewing or downloading potential evidence until Feb. 26, 2021, weeks after the office announced it was closing its investigation into the raid.

On the afternoon of Jan. 28, 2019, Dennis Tuttle and Rhogena Nicholas were shot to death in their home at 7815 Harding Street in southeast Houston after police initiated a no-knock raid involving a drug warrant.

That warrant turned out to be based on the word of an informant who never actually went to the house.

Two years after the couple's deaths, their families filed civil lawsuits.

READ MORE: Family of Rhogena Nicholas files lawsuit on 2-year anniversary of Harding Street Raid

In the latest filing issued on Monday, Nicholas' family opposed a stay filed by HPD, calling it a move to "conceal the truth."

According to the documents, the department has asked for a stay while it battles wage theft and overtime fraud allegations involving five officers who were also indicted in the raid case in January.

"The city and the officers involved were trying to stop the family from actually getting the evidence that they've been trying to get for two years to identify who actually murdered Rhogena," said attorney Mike Doyle, who is representing the family. "At least from the forensics evidence, (officers) fired blindly through the wall as well as the evidence of friendly fire. The stuff that's never been looked at."

For its part, the city won't comment and gave ABC13 a statement which read, "We do not discuss litigation in public or through the media. Now that a lawsuit has been filed, the process will work its way through the legal system."

After initially declining comment, the Harris County District Attorney's office issued the following statement to Eyewitness News, defending their work.

"Prosecutors have reviewed thousands of pages of documents, numerous lab reports, and an array of other evidence, as our work continues to bring justice to the families of Rhogena Nicholas, Dennis Tuttle, and the entire community."

The following officers face counts of engaging in organized criminal activity resulting from the investigation into the botched raid.

  • Oscar Pardo - (HPD) Engaging in Organized Criminal Activity, to wit: Aggregate Theft by a Public Servant ($30,000 or more but less than $150,000) and Tampering with a Governmental Record (1st degree)
  • Cedell Lovings - (Status Unclear) Engaging in Organized Criminal Activity, to wit: Aggregate Theft by a Public Servant ($30,000 or more but less than $150,000) and Tampering with a Governmental Record (1st degree)
  • Nadeem Ashraf - (HPD) Engaging in Organized Criminal Activity, to wit: Aggregate Theft by a Public Servant ($30,000 or more but less than $150,000) and Tampering with a Governmental Record (1st degree)
  • Clemente Reyna - (No longer HPD, retired) Engaging in Organized Criminal Activity, to wit: Aggregate Theft by a Public Servant ($30,000 or more but less than $150,000) and Tampering with a Governmental Record (1st degree)
  • Thomas Wood - (No longer HPD, retired) Engaging in Organized Criminal Activity, to wit: Aggregate Theft by a Public Servant ($30,000 or more but less than $150,000) and Tampering with a Governmental Record (1st degree)
  • Frank Medina - (HPD) Engaging in Organized Criminal Activity, to wit: Aggregate Theft by a Public Servant ($2,500 or more, but less than $30,000) and Tampering with a Governmental Record (2nd degree)


If you're viewing this on our mobile app, click this link to read the court documents.


Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg said earlier this year that the officers had been involved in a long-term scheme to steal overtime from the city.

But in the documents filed Monday, Nicholas' family argues that there's no significant overlap between the cases even though the "defendants misleadingly claim that the criminal charges 'involve the same matter' as this civil lawsuit."

Further, according to court records, attorneys for the Nicholas family claim that it does involve the "same matter" because the indicted officers billed for overtime while they were involved in the raid.

The family is accusing the department of trying to dismiss the case by saying that there's not enough evidence, claiming that HPD hid important physical and forensic evidence, including the identity of the officer who killed Nicholas.

The filing also points at "red flags" that then-HPD Chief Art Acevedo saw on-scene during the shooting.

"I personally saw something that I'm not going to talk about here today. I was on that scene within fourteen minutes, fourteen minutes and thirty-two seconds, after the shots (rang) out. I left the sixteenth floor of this headquarters. Went to that scene and started processing the visuals, start processing what I was seeing, started processing what I was feeling. And from within a matter of a couple days, we started seeing some red flags, because of the questions that we asked," read the documents, attributing to Acevedo.

Last year, the case agent of the botched raid, former Houston police officer Gerald Goines, was indicted on two counts of murder. His former partner, Steven Bryant, was indicted on tampering. A grand jury indicted Officer Felipe Gallegos on murder, in addition to the several other officers on time card tampering charges.

SEE ALSO: Grand jury 'indicted a hero' with murder in deadly HPD botched raid, lawyer says
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"We've gone through every channel possible to find out answers as to why it's happened in the police department and city have fought us at every step of the way," one of the attorn



While commenting on the event in January, Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner steered clear of the specifics of the lawsuit, but defended Houston police officers in general.

"I'm not going to try to draw any conclusions. At this point, you know, but what I will say is that practices, policies, and procedures, the city of Houston, have been in place," said Turner. "So, allow the process to run this course. It's going to run its course. And then at the end of the day, we'll see where the facts land."

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



In July 2020, 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


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

SEE ALSO:
State lawmakers call HPD botched Harding Street raid audit a 'scam'

Grand jury indicts ex-HPD officers involved in botched raid

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

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

RELATED: Woman pleads guilty to making false 911 report that sparked botched HPD Harding Street raid



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