HOUSTON (AP) – An attempt to serve a search warrant at a suspected drug house quickly turned into a gunbattle that killed two suspects and injured five undercover narcotics officers, including four who were shot, Houston’s police chief said.
Chief Art Acevedo said the officers “immediately came under fire” upon entering the home on the city’s southeast side Monday afternoon. The suspects were killed. Four of the officers were shot and a fifth suffered a knee injury.
“Two things you know about police work: It can be tremendously boring 98 percent of the time and extremely dangerous and dynamic 2 percent of the time,” he said at a Tuesday news conference. “But we know that they are always in danger and it’s a dangerous business we are in.”
Two officers were shot in the face. Dr. Michelle McNutt, chief of trauma surgery at Memorial Hermann-Texas Medical Center, said one of them – identified by Acevedo as a 50-year-old sergeant – is expected to be discharged from the hospital Tuesday and the second is facing several facial trauma surgeries.
Acevedo said the names of the injured officers are not being released because they work undercover.
Police knew black tar heroin was being sold at the property, Acevedo said. He said officers found no heroin there Monday, but that they recovered marijuana, an unidentified white powder and two rifles.
The chief said a team of nine narcotics officers were attempting to serve a warrant when they forced open the home’s front door and immediately faced gunfire. One of the suspects, 58-year-old Rhogena Nicholas, was shot and killed as she tried to grab the service weapon of the first officer to be injured, Acevedo said. The second suspect killed was 59-year-old Dennis Tuttle, the chief said.
He said none of the officers was wearing a body camera.
Acevedo said the first officer through the door was charged by a large pit bull, which he shot and killed. Acevedo said Tuttle immediately opened fire, striking that officer in the shoulder.
“(The officer) went down, fell on the sofa in the living room, at which time a female suspect … reached over the officer and started making a move for his shotgun,” Acevedo said. More officers entered and shot her.
Acevedo said a 54-year-old supervisor who was shot Monday had been shot twice before in his police career. But the officer – a “strong ox” and “big teddy bear” – told another officer in the hospital that he didn’t hesitate when he knew his colleagues had been hit.
“He just passed a note to one of our officers that said: ‘I had to get in there because I knew my guys were down.'” Acevedo said.
“The only thing bigger than his body in terms of his stature is his courage,” Acevedo said. “I think God had to give him that big body to be able to contain his courage because the man’s got some tremendous courage.”
McNutt said an officer whose knee was injured – identified by Acevedo as a 50-year-old sergeant – was recovering from surgery and is expected to go home later this week. Acevedo said a 33-year-old officer who was shot in the shoulder was released Monday. McNutt said the two shot in the face and the man with the knee injury were in stable condition. Information on the fifth injured officer has not been released, in accordance with the family’s request.
No information has been released about how many officers returned fire. After the gunfire ended, SWAT officers using two robots to determine if the property was safe to enter found the two suspects dead.
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Associated Press writer Jamie Stengle contributed to this report from Dallas.
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