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HPD narcotics officer retires amid internal review of botched raid

March 22, 2019 GMT

The Houston narcotics officer at the center of an internal police investigation following a botched January drug raid has retired, his lawyer confirmed Friday.

Gerald Goines retired Friday afternoon while under investigation following the shooting deaths of two residents during a no-knock raid of a Pecan Park residence in south Houston on Jan. 28. The Harris County District Attorney’s Office is reviewing more than 1,400 criminal cases he worked on over the course of his 34-year career.

HPD officials relieved Goines of duty as questions mounted about his actions leading up to the drug raid, in which a team of undercover narcotics officers burst into 7815 Harding St. after obtaining a no-knock search warrant. A gun battle ensued, and police killed homeowners Dennis Tuttle and Rhogena Nicholas. Goines was shot, along with three other officers, one of whom remains hospitalized.

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Nicole DeBorde, the attorney representing Goines, confirmed her client’s retirement.

“He has quite an extensive recovery to deal with,” she said. “So instead of fighting with that and all the administrative issues, he decided it was time.”

The Pecan Park bust — and the officers’ actions — have drawn close scrutiny because police did not find any heroin, only a small quantity of cocaine and marijuana. Investigators later failed to find the confidential informant that police relied on to obtain a search warrant.

Goines, shot in the neck as he entered the private home, was relieved of duty after Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo said the veteran officer appeared to have lied about the undercover drug buy that served as justification for the search warrant used by the squad to raid the house.

Officer Steven Bryant, a fellow officer who participated in the raid and was also relieved of duty as questions mounted, retired earlier this month.

In a search warrant for Bryant’s phone data, an investigator with HPD’s Special Investigations Unit wrote that Bryant told investigators he had retrieved two bags of heroin from the center console of Goines’ police car at the instruction of another officer.

That, however, was not consistent with the affidavit used to obtain the warrant for the Jan. 28 raid, in which Goines wrote that Bryant identified heroin brought out of the house.

Though he took the two bags of drugs for testing to determine that they were heroin, Bryant eventually told investigators he had never seen the narcotics in question before retrieving them from the car.

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Goines’s retirement is the latest fallout from the deadly raid, and comes as Acevedo has launched a wide-ranging probe into the division and its operations following the raid. The FBI has launched a rare civil rights investigation into the operation.

The Harris County District Attorney’s Office has announced that it is investigating 2,200 of the former criminal cases of Goines and Bryant. Acevedo has dramatically curtailed no-knock raids, and said he will equip raid teams with body cameras to record the operations. At the time of the raid, none of the members of the raid team was wearing cameras.

Acevedo was not immediately available for comment. Officials with the Houston Police Officers declined to comment.

One former HPD officer who worked with Goines called his retirement a “smart move” since the narcotics officer could access retirement money from his police pension to pay legal costs.

“First of all, it takes away the department’s ability to compel him to answer any questions in regards to an administrative investigation,” the officer said, referring to an internal affairs investigation by the department. “ It’s a pretty smart move because he might as well collect as much of his pension as he can because if he is convicted, he’ll lose his pension under the new pension rules.”

st.john.smith@chron.com