HOUSTON — Warrants that allow police officers to raid homes without knocking will not be allowed, according to Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo.
He promised several policy changes after a drug raid killed two civilians, wounded five officers including two undercover officers relieved of duty.
Chief Art Acevedo said the cop, whose claims were the basis for the search warrant, lied. Police never found the drugs they were looking for inside the home on Harding Street.
None of it, though, cooled emotions that raged during a Greater Houston Coalition for Justice Town Hall meeting Monday evening.
Organizers invited the chief, Harris County District Attonrey Kim Ogg and Mayor Sylvester Turner to speak with members of the public about “no-knock warrants.” The mayor did not attend.
Every time Chief Acevedo and DA Ogg spoke about warrants or the raid, they heard feedback. People often interrupted.
“I’m very confident we’re going to have criminal charges on one or more police officers,” Chief Acevedo said before members of the crowd talked over him.
“I just want to say (you’re) a coward and all your officers are cowards,” Roman Randolph told the chief.
“There is an orderly process to gathering evidence,” DA Ogg said. “That’s what maintains order in our system.”
“I don’t trust being in my own home, because I don’t trust if someone is going to knock down my door and shoot my dogs and kill me and my husband,” said Eileen De Los Santos, a neighbor of Dennis Tuttle and Rhogena Nicholas, the couple killed during HPD’s raid.
Aurora Charles’ brother Ponciano Montemayor, Jr. died six years ago when HPD officers served a drug warrant at his home looking for someone else. Charles asked the Chief and DA when and how things will get better.
“All I want is the law to change,” Charles said. “You cannot go by the word of an informant. You’ve got to do some more investigation. That’s all I ask.”
Chief Acevedo told KHOU 11 News he wants “no-knock warrants” to go away and said other policy changes will follow.
Mayoral candidate Bill King, the only candidate in attendance, said he is encouraged to hear the chief talk about ending “no-knock warrants.” In a statement, candidate Tony Buzbee called for Chief Acevedo to be fired.
“I’m not worried about that,” Chief Acevedo said. “I think not doing your job puts you in jeopardy, not doing everything you can do to do due diligence puts you in jeopardy. Like I said, my skills and my history speak for themselves, and quite frankly, if it wasn’t for this chief, nobody would be talking about what our officer did wrong.”
Outside Houston Police headquarters Monday, a group protesting the deadly raid called for the lead narcotics detective to be charged with murder.
"The officer is responsible for two deaths and the officers that were injured on top of that,” one protester said.
"The other thing that we're demanding, every single case that this particular office was working on, every one of those cases be reviewed,” said activist Shere Dore.
That's something Chief Acevedo pledges to do to see if there's a pattern of problems.
Mayor Turner said he's been getting daily briefings on the unfolding investigation and there will likely be new facts emerging every day.
"I want a very full and thorough and detailed investigation,” said Mayor Sylvester Turner.
He vowed transparency.
"I am not afraid of the truth, wherever the truth falls. We're going to call a ball a ball, a strike a strike and let me assure the public…nothing will be held back. We're not hiding anything,” Mayor Turner said.
At Monday’s town hall meeting, activists spoke out against so-called "no-knock" warrants developed decades ago where police don't have to announce themselves before forcing their way into a home.
"They wanted to make sure that people couldn't flush drugs down the toilet,” said Jeff Reese, a retired sergeant with the Harris County Sheriff's Office, now the head of the Houston Peace and Justice Center.
He said the “no-knock” tactic, also called a "dynamic entry,” is dangerous.
"If you’re in your home and you hear this, you think you're getting invaded,” Reese said. “You're going to grab your gun, and you’re going to return fire. And in this case, it went terribly wrong."