A Texas woman whose false 911 calls led to a botched 2019 drug raid that resulted in the death of both homeowners and their dog was sentenced on Tuesday to three years and four months in federal prison, local news outlets reported. The botched raid—which also left five officers injured, one of whom is now a paraplegic—also caused the Houston Police Department to investigate the entire narcotics division responsible for the raid, exposing extensive corruption within its ranks that ended with 12 current and former officers being indicted.
Patricia Ann Garcia, 53, pleaded guilty in March to placing several erroneous 911 calls on Jan. 8, 2019, in which she falsely accusing her neighbors Dennis Tuttle, 59, and his wife, Rhogena Nicholas, 58, of being involved in serious criminal activity. Garcia, who reportedly had a long-running feud with the couple, told emergency operators that Tuttle and Nicholas were armed drug dealers who were holding her 25-year-old daughter in their home against her will.
Just under three weeks after Garcia made the calls, narcotics officers with Houston PD executed a “no-knock warrant” on the home, breaking down the door and fatally shooting the couple.
During her videoconference sentencing hearing before U.S. District Judge George C. Hanks on Tuesday, Garcia expressed sorrow for her actions, claiming she was not in her right mind when she made the false 911 calls and never expected police to storm the couple’s home.
“I’m so sorry for my 911 call,” she said, adding, “And the false calls I made,” according to a Houston Chronicle report.
But Judge Hanks appeared unsympathetic, saying he believed she “used 911 as a weapon.” The judge said Garcia did, indeed, want something bad to happen to the victims.
“There’s no question in my mind, Ms. Garcia, in that you wanted something bad to happen to (Tuttle and Nicholas),” Hanks said, per the Chronicle. “You didn’t really care what happened, and respectfully, the court can’t condone that.”
The 40-month sentence Hanks handed down was an upward departure from the sentencing guidelines. Garcia’s counsel had requested she receive 10 to 16 months in prison—what the federal guidelines called for—in addition to a period of home confinement.
Commenting on the sentence, veteran criminal defense attorney Kent Schaffer told local ABC-affiliate KTRK that the case presented unique circumstances the likes of which are extremely uncommon.
“It’s what we call a series of unfortunate events,” Schaffer said. “In the 40 years I’ve been doing this, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a case where the judge sentenced someone to more than twice the guidelines.”
Garcia is the first person involved in the scandal to be sentenced, but she will not be the last. Former officer Steven O. Bryant last week pleaded guilty to lying to help cover up the circumstances of the botched raid at the behest of former narcotics agent Gerald Goines. Goines, who was charged with leading the drug raid, initially claimed that he witnessed an informant purchase heroin from the couple’s home in order to obtain the no-knock warrant. Goines later said, however, that there was no informant and that he had purchased the drugs himself from a different location.
Retired Houston Police Officer Gerald Goines bond was set at $150,000 on each count of felony murder for the botched Harding Street Raid. His partner, Steven Bryant, was arrested for tampering with government documents. Bryant’s bond was set at $50,000. https://t.co/VXeQsJC2AT
— Mycah Hatfield (@MycahABC13) August 23, 2019
Bryant lied on a supplemental police report, claiming to have confirmed Goines did get heroin in the investigation, according to the affidavit. In this narrative, the two officers had an understanding that Goines was going to probably identify Bryant as a witness to a non-existent buy from a confidential informant.
Bryant is scheduled to be sentenced on Aug. 24 for destruction, alteration or falsification of records in federal investigations.
Now Goines faces two counts of murder. Police have said they did not find heroin at the home, only marijuana and “white powdery substance” that was either cocaine or fentanyl. The victims’ families have sued over the killings, calling into question the official narrative that a shootout began after Nicholas tried to grab an officer’s shotgun.
[image via Houston PD]
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