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.

Matt deGrood: 409-683-5230; matt.degrood@galvnews.com

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(13) comments

Robert Braeking

I wonder how 'no knock' warrants square with the castle doctrine. Presumably anyone entering a residence without permission is deemed an intruder and is subject to being perforated by the residence's owner who is protecting his person and property. In the league city case this article stated that the warrant was served and there was merely a user level of controlled substances found. The man basically lost his life over a nickle bag of pot. That would hardly rise to the level necessitating a Gestapo style raid. Other less intrusive tactics could be employed which would not pose a threat to the resident or the officers. In the League City case as well we only have the word of the officer who killed the man. He is well motivated to embellish the truth concerning the death. Of course, the dead man cannot testify.

All police departments should rescind their 'no knock' policies. There is absolutely no reason for the police to be breaking and entering a residence.

Paul Hyatt

I will be the first to admit, that if my door comes down at any time of the day or night I will be reaching for any gun that I can lay my hands on and I will be firing as quickly as I can at the point of entry.... We have guns to protect our family and our homes from ANYONE....

Richard Illyes

The problem is prohibition. Where there is a lot of money to be made there will be providers and pushers, gang wars and corruption, a huge clogged bureaucracy of courts, defenders, prosecutors, counselors, prisons, no knock raids on wrong addresses, and ruined lives.

Let's let addicts go to any physician and get a prescription for their drug. The common addictive drugs cost almost nothing to manufacture and addicts could live somewhat normal lives at small cost until they decided to get clean.

Even if they never got clean the rest of society would be spared the armies of pushers trying to hook users, fighting over turf, pulling generation after generation into drug gangs. The drug war has never worked and never will.

George Croix

I can understand why it might be necessary for a 'no knock' if the Police feel they will come under fire immediately on entry or might lose valuable evidence, but also understand any homeowner assuming his door is not crashing in for good reason and proceeding to defend himself and family.
The makings of tragedy....and plenty of back-and-forthing by lawyers at the trial, assuming both sides are all still alive to go to trial......
Unless the person being sought is some escaped prisoner or presumed terrorist, it's likely the target is dope and dopers, and hopefully at the right address.....
Seems to me like rather than help dopers remain dopers and pay for their weakness and losers 'lifestyle', we'd be better off eliminating the dopers, and thus reduce the need for armed Police/civilian interaction.
But, we are too civilized for that...better to sympathize with the 'substance abusers' and let the honest people pay their way or suffer the consequences of their actions....
Some civility that is...............

Diane Turski

It seems to me that these "no knock" warrants are basically home invasions done by police, sometimes under dubious circumstances. When so many homeowners own guns for self protection, no one should be surprised that these home invasions result in innocent people being killed and injured. Related to this issue, I don't support the militarization of local police departments because I think it encourages this overly aggressive behavior. Therefore, I agree with the criminal justice professionals who have expressed the opinion that these "no knock" warrants should be rescinded.

Vanessa McAfee

It won’t even be reviewed?

Clinton Stevens

The difference between a “no-knock” warrant and a “knock and announce” warrant is about 3-5 seconds.

In the former, police are still announcing their presence and advising they have a search warrant. The difference is they are doing it as they force entry.

In the latter they are knocking, announcing their presence and then forcing entry after a 3-5 second pause.

It’s misleading to say that police are not required to announce their presence at all with a “no knock” warrant.

George Croix

Train 'em to yell real loud, Clinton.....older population doesn't always have their hearing aids in.......[wink]

Gary Scoggin

Talking with some friends in law enforcement I’ve been told that the circumstances warranting these are rare and when they are necessary, they should be executed by a trained SWAT team, not by a bunch of detectives in a hurry.

George Croix

Great...me and a couple of Glock 30's suddenly charged by an armored up SWAT team looking for the guy in the camo pants/black shirt/gray hoodie but no other posted distinguishing characteristics because it might offend somebody, or perhaps was just an oversight....
I'm putting my hearing aids in right now, and hope Clint passed that yell loudly info along.... [beam][beam]

In all seriousness, it's a serious issue, and, I'd have to say the benefit of the doubt and all available risk prevention measures SHOULD be given to and taken by the Police, who's job is tough enough under the best of circumstances......

Jim Forsythe

George, I do not know the answer, but if someone kills a police officer during a no knock, will they be charged with killing a police officer?
Or will the Castle Doctrine protect them?

George Croix

Heck, Jim, I not only don't know the legalities of it that might or might not override Castle, but hope I never find out for myself or anybody else.....!!!
I'm both a big supporter of Police AND of self-defense....NORMALLY those are not mutually exclusive....
Fact is, in the harsh light of reality, unless the homeowner has his/her weapon IN HAND at that moment or is just dumb lucky enough to make it to one CLOSE AT HAND without being detained / neutralized, there's not going to be any two way exchange of fire after a door kick in, whether by Police or criminals......you're toast about 98%....
Hence the silliness of keeping a 'self-defense' weapon unloaded and locked away (Get a Louisville Slugger if that's the idiotic law in one's town....).
Clinton says the good guys always announce 'Police' at the critical moment.
I'd say we homeowners had better make a habit of listening up......[wink]
I think this is where people who've had jobs or lived lives where quick reaction is REQUIRED to avoid injury or worse is a POSITIVE point for safety of all if such a terrible situation happened....I think....think....those folks even if armed would catch the 'Police' alert in time to avoid pulling a trigger.....
For ALL sakes, I hope so.....
I sure as heck don't blame a Policeman for not wanting to get shot anymore than I do.....

It's worth thinking about for most folks, because it's fallacy that most could do anything about it anyway.....

Robert Braeking

It would seem from the comments that 'no-knock' is seldom, if ever, justified.

Why don't police departments just use the Janet Reno approach and burn them out/burn them up?

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