Houston police had previously bought black tar heroin at the home, Chief Art Acevedo said Tuesday. When a narcotics unit raided the house, officers swiftly came under fire, and a pit bull charged the first officer through the door, he said.
When Monday afternoon’s raid was over, two suspects were dead and five officers were injured, four of them suffering gunshot wounds.
The first officer fired a shotgun blast, killing the dog. Suspect Dennis Tuttle, 59, initially retreated but returned with a .357 Magnum, shooting the officer in the shoulder, the chief said. The officer collapsed onto a couch in the living room.
As the other narcotics officers charged through the door — which Acevedo described as a “fatal funnel” — the second suspect, Rhogena Nicholas, 58, tried to wrestle the shotgun away from the officer on the couch. Police quickly shot her.
More gunfire was exchanged as the 54-year-old officer who breached the door — the officer who knocks down the door goes in last — charged into the fray, realizing his fellow officers were in trouble.
“He immediately knew his partners were down and he made entry. When he made entry, he got shot,” Acevedo said. “You know your brother’s down, your sister’s down, you go in, and that’s what they did.”
The chief became emotional as he recounted the longtime veteran passing a note to his police brethren explaining his actions. It said, “I had to get in there because I knew my guys were down,” according to Acevedo.
After more gunfire, everyone in the house had been killed or wounded, and four officers went in to rescue their injured counterparts.
Investigators found no heroin on the premises, but they found marijuana and a white powder believed to be cocaine or the powerful prescription painkiller fentanyl, Acevedo said. They also seized three shotguns and two rifles, he said.
Both suspects’ relatives have been notified of their deaths, the chief said.
Acevedo and Michelle McNutt, chief of trauma surgery at Memorial Hermann-Texas Medical Center in Houston, provided updates on four of the officers, explaining that the family of the fifth officer has requested no information be released:
• The 54-year-old who “heroically made the entry” was shot in the face and required surgery. He is recovering, but the facial trauma team will have to perform more operations. Police said he had been with the force for 32 years. He is in serious condition and is stable, the department said.
• A 50-year-old sergeant who suffered a gunshot wound to the face required no surgery. The officer, who has 25 years on the force, was released Tuesday afternoon.
• Another 50-year-old sergeant, a 27-year veteran who suffered a knee injury, is recovering and will be released later this week.
• The first officer through the door, a 33-year-old, was shot in the shoulder and has been released. The officer has 10 years on the force.
• The last officer, whose family requested privacy, is 40 years old and a nine-year veteran of the department.
Because the officers work undercover, their names aren’t being released at this time.
The 54-year-old officer is no stranger to taking a bullet in the line of duty, the chief said. He was shot in 1992 and 1997.
“He’s done something in life that God really watches over him,” Acevedo said.
The chief described him as a big, strong teddy bear who is “tough as nails.” The only thing larger than his physical stature, the chief said, is his courage.
Mayor Sylvester Turner said Monday the shooting marked “a tough day” for Houston.
“Pray for their families, pray for their spouses, their children, their parents, all of their loved ones,” he said.