Weeks after four Houston police officers executing a no-knock warrant were wounded and two civilians were killed, that city’s police chief is requiring officers to get his personal approval before signing off on the controversial raids.
But despite the increased publicity about no-knock warrants, which allow officers to enter a home without knocking or announcing their presence, several Galveston County law enforcement agencies said they had no plans to re-evaluate the practice.
“We have no plans to change policy at this time,” said Kelly Williamson, spokesman for the League City Police Department.
No-knock warrants are a widespread, although often criticized policy in national law enforcement. More than 81 civilians and 13 police officers died during such raids between 2010 and 2016, according to a New York Times investigation.
The practice is also used in Galveston County, officials have said.
“No-knock warrants can be a critical tool to ensure officer safety and should be sought when justified by the facts,” District Attorney Jack Roady said. “We do not seek them in every case. However, when there is a sufficient basis to believe that officer safety will be at risk when executing a warrant, then we will work with law enforcement to seek judicial approval for the issuance of a no-knock warrant.”
The district attorney’s office does not track specifically how many warrants are issued each year, Roady said.
But one such no-knock warrant was issued when an officer shot and killed a man in May 2018 in League City.
A League City police officer shot and killed Roger Fortner, 49, when SWAT team members encountered him holding a “samurai-style sword,” which he refused to put down, police said.
Officers entered Fortner’s home on Morningside Drive that morning in response to an investigation into reports of drugs and weapons being sold at the residence, police said.
A judge issued that search warrant not in connection to Fortner, but his stepson, Brandon Wilson, 20, of League City, officials said.
Police arrested Wilson at the scene and prosecutors later charged him with possession of marijuana and one count of possession of a controlled substance for less than 1 gram of THC investigators detected at the scene, according to a probable cause affidavit.
Wilson on July 25 was sentenced to four years in prison for violating deferred probation of a 2017 charge of tampering with physical evidence, court records show. He also pleaded guilty to the possession of a controlled substance charge and prosecutors dismissed the possession of marijuana charge, court records show.
League City police officer Matt Maggiolino fired the fatal shot, but has not been charged in the shooting and authorities have not said whether the shooting has been considered by a grand jury.
Galveston County officials said they didn’t have plans to review policy on no-knock warrants several days after Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo said he or a designee would have to approve seeking such warrants in the future.
That came after a Jan. 28 raid led to the deaths of Dennis Tuttle, 59, and Rhogena Nicholas, 58, who lived in a home officers raided, according to The Associated Press. Four officers were shot in the gunfight and another was injured but not shot.
Officer Gerald Goines, who prepared the search warrant, is accused of lying in an affidavit to justify storming the house without warning, according to The Associated Press.
Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg on Wednesday announced her office would review more than 1,400 criminal cases that involved Goines, a 30-year department veteran.
There have been six fatal officer-involved shootings in two years in Galveston County.