Four Houston police officers were shot and a fifth was injured on January 28, 2019 during a gun battle that erupted during a search warrant execution at a home suspected of being tied to the dealing of black tar heroin, police say. The most seriously wounded officers were in critical but stable condition after being shot in the neck area in the immediate hours after the mass shooting, according to the chief.
However, by the following day, January 29, three of the shot officers are in stable condition. One of the officers who was shot “is in a fight,” said Police Chief Art Acevedo. The suspects were named as Dennis Tuttle and Rhogena Nicholas, a married couple who were killed at the scene. You can see more photos of Tuttle and Nicholas and learn more about them here.
“No officer has died,” Acevedo said, opening up an evening news conference. Mayor Sylvester Turner called it a tough day for Houston and asked for prayers for the injured officers. “Pray for all of our police officers,” Turner said, adding that one officer was about to be discharged. “Our job is to keep people safe in our city. We do not tolerate any sort of activity, whether it’s drug trafficking or any other activity.”
About 4:15 p.m., Acevedo said, a narcotics group was working an investigation into sales of narcotics near a residence. A large team of officers went to the scene. The patrol officers were there to provide support for the operation. Shortly before 5 p.m, the narcotics officers attempted to serve a search warrant. They announced themselves as Houston police officers while simultaneously breaching the front door, according to the chief.
“Immediately upon reaching the door, the officers came under fire,” Acevedo said, adding that it’s not clear how many suspects opened fire. Gunfire was exchanged. Two officers ended up in surgery for gunfire, and they are critical but stable condition, and “we’re hopeful with the prayers of this community that they will recover.” Two other officers were shot, and they will remain hospitalized for observation for at least 24 hours, said the chief. “They were struck by gunfire, but they are ambulatory and expected to make a full recovery.” Another officer was also wounded in the gun battle, suffering a knee injury. Initially, police thought all five were shot.
On January 29, Acevedo provided additional details. He said the first officer who entered the house was charged by a pitbull. A male suspect then came from around the back and opened fire with a .357 Magnum revolver. That officer was struck in the shoulder. He went down and fell on the sofa. A female suspect reached over the officer and started making a move for his shotgun, the chief said. Other officers made entry and discharged their firearms, striking that female suspect, according to Acevedo.
An exchange of gunfire occurred. One officer, age 54, breached the door. When he made entry, he also got shot. The remaining officers started laying down cover fire. They heroically pulled their fellow officers out of harm’s way, according to the chief.
Two suspects were shot and pronounced dead at the scene, said Acevedo. “Narcotics activity was going on in that residence. Specifically the sale of black tar heroin.”
One of the Wounded Officers Has Been Shot Before
One of the officers injured was a senior police officer age 54. That officer was “shot several times in the line of duty” before, stated Acevedo, adding that the man was the “case agent” and was “on the front lines.”
It’s not yet clear how many officers returned fire, said the chief.
The Houston Chronicle earlier reported that the shooting exploded at the door when Narcotics Division officers tried to serve a warrant at a house where they’d previously made undercover drug purchases. One officer was shot in the face, according to the newspaper. Police were using a robot to search the home. A witness described hearing at least 15 gunshots at the house, per KHOU.
Union President Joe Gamaldi wrote on Twitter: “3 of our officers are currently stable, 2 are still critical please keep them and their families in your thoughts and prayers.” At the press conference, he used sharper rhetoric, calling the suspects “dirtbags,” and saying, “We’re sick and tired of having targets on our backs. Enough is enough.”
Houston police confirmed: “At this time we can confirm 5 officers have been struck and transported to Memorial Hermann Hospital, Medical Center and Ben Taub General Hospital. Further updates will be provided as available.”
Gamaldi had also tweeted about the multiple officers wounded.
“We currently have 5 officers shot, all on their way to the hospital,” Houston Police Officers’ Union President Gamaldi wrote on Twitter. “One is being life flighted. On the way to the hospital, will update when I can. Please keep all the officers in your prayers!” WTSP-TV also reported that at least five officers were shot, per HPD Watch Command. However, as noted, it later turned out that four officers were shot and the fifth was injured during the chaos.
KHOU-TV said reporters saw at least two life flight helicopters at the scene. A large section of the neighborhood was sealed off.
Houston police tweeted earlier that the officers were shot during an “encounter” with a suspect, who was not named. “HPD responding to a scene at 7800 Harding where officers have been struck with gunfire following an encounter with a suspect. Officers are en route to the hospital. Please avoid the area and yield for emergency vehicles. Further updates will be provided as available,” they wrote in the early evening hours.
The Mayor Confirmed That a Suspect Was ‘Down’
Mayor Sylvester Turner wrote, “Just been notified that three (3) of HPD officers have been shot. I am waiting to get a status report. I am asking for your prayers for them.” However, that was early on; Houston police later confirmed the tally as five wounded, with four of those people shot. He also indicated: “Suspect in the HPD shooting is down.”
The shooting occurred in southeast Houston.
Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo wrote on Twitter, “We have had several officers shot please pray for officers on the way to the scene now more information to follow.”
This story is being updated as more information is learned on the Houston police shooting.