A Texas woman has been sentenced to three years and four months in federal prison for making false 911 calls regarding her neighbors in January 2019 resulting in a Houston police raid killing both homeowners.
“There’s no question in my mind, Ms. Garcia, in that you wanted something bad to happen,” U.S. Judge George C. Hanks said during the sentencing hearing held by videoconference Tuesday. “You didn’t really care what happened, and respectfully, the court can’t condone that.”
Patricia Ann Garcia told dispatchers her daughter was at her neighbor’s home, describing 59-year-old Dennis Tuttle and 58-year-old Nicholas as drug addicts and dealers who also had firearms – including machine guns she told police – inside their residence. But none of those claims were true at all, prosecutors said.
Garcia does not have a daughter – and after making those calls on that night, “things were set in motion,” assistant U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Texas Alamdar Hamdani said at Tuesday’s sentencing hearing. “Ms. Garcia dialed 911 and intended to use those three digits as a weapon.”
Twenty days later, Tuttle and Nicholas were shot and killed during a botched Houston narcotics operation at their home that also left five officers injured, including one paralyzed from the neck down, and soon struck national headlines at the time, the Houston Chronicle reported.
Prosecutors say Garcia was under the influence of drugs and alcohol when she made the three 911 calls on Jan. 8, 2019 to get back at Tuttle and Nicholas over a longstanding feud.
The scandal has grown in the three years since the raid and a dozen current and former officers tied to the narcotics unit have been indicted in state and federal court for charges including padding overtime.
Current and former officers Gerald Goines and Felipe Gallegos are facing murder charges in state court.
“What did you think was going to happen?” the Judge Hanks added, before sentencing her to 40 months in federal prison and three years of supervised release. “This wasn’t a run-of-the-mill hoax, it was a very serious 911 call made to police with intent of harming their neighbors.”
Her attorney, Marjorie Meyers, asked for a sentence of 10 to 16 months, recommended by the sentencing guidelines, as Garcia has a long history of mental illness and drug abuse. Meyers said what happened to the couple was due to “rogue and corrupt police officers.”
Garcia said when she made the false 911 calls, she “wasn’t in my right mind” and didn’t mean for anyone to die the way they did. “I am so sorry for my 911 telephone calls,” she added in brief remarks during the hearing.
Garcia was the first person to be sentenced in connection with the deadly raid. She had been in custody since Dec. 4, 2020 after violating the conditions of her bond. She pleaded guilty to one count of providing false information in March.
Goines – the officer who led the raid and who has since retired – allegedly lied to obtain the warrant to search the couple’s home by claiming a confidential informant had bought heroin there. He later said there was no informant and he had bought the drugs himself, prosecutors said. Police found small amounts of marijuana and cocaine in the house, but no heroin.
The sentencing comes a week after Goines’ former partner, Steven Bryant, pleaded guilty in federal court to one count related to obstructing justice by falsifying records. He will be sentenced Aug. 24.
More than 160 drug convictions tied to Goines have since been dismissed by prosecutors. The families of Tuttle and Nicholas filed federal civil rights lawsuits against the city and 13 officers in January.
Mike Doyle, the attorney representing Nicholas’ family, said Garcia’s sentencing was a “small step forward,” but said the Houston Police Department still must address significant issues since the raid.
“The central questions of the city’s two-year, million-dollar cover-up of the killings of Rhogena Nicholas and Dennis Tuttle remain unanswered: What happened, before and after the HPD murderous raid?” he said. “The Nicholas family and public still need answers from the mayor and the police chief.”