New information has come to light regarding the “police-involved shooting” of José Guerena, however these new revelations raise more questions than they answer.
José Guerena, a 26-year-old United States Marine Corps veteran of two tours of duty in Iraq and married father of two was gunned down on 5 May 2011 by members of the Pima County Regional SWAT Team, who broke into his home and fired 71 shots, of which at least 60 hit Mr. Guerena. Officers originally claimed that Guerena fired first, but later retracted that claim. A computer search revealed that Guerena had no criminal record.
Now a lawyer for the SWAT Team members, Mike Storie, has implied that Guerena was a member of a crime ring that was posing as police officers in order to conduct home invasions. At a press conference on 19 May, Storie claimed that prior to the raid, the SWAT Team members were told at a briefing, “There is an organization that’s involved in drugs, home invasions, drug ripoffs. Violent crimes.” He further told reporters that “There’s information that this organization would conduct home invasions while disguised as law enforcement officers.”
Storie added that a search of the Guerena home found rifles, handguns, body armor, and a portion of a law enforcement officer’s uniform. “Everything they think they’re going to find in there, they find,” he stated. He also claimed that authorities found a portrait of Jesus Malverde, a “narco saint,” under Mr. Guerena’s bed.
The search warrant and related documents pertaining to the case have been sealed by a judge. According to Storie, neither José Guerena nor any other individual was named on the search warrant, which instead targeted anybody living at that address.
All this leaves a number of questions unanswered.
For starters, was José Guerena some kind of monster posing as a police officer and conducting home invasions, or was he not? If he was, then they ought to come out and say so, and produce the evidence. If he was not, then to imply as much is beyond irresponsible.
Which leads me to my next question: given that this guy was working twelve-hour shifts in a copper mine to support his wife and children, how much time did that leave for nefarious activities?
While they’re at it, maybe they could explain why did it take two weeks for them to mention this little detail?
Moreover, why was José Guerena denied medical attention until more than an hour after he was shot, at which point he was already dead? Storie has claimed that after Guerena was shot 60 times, he fell out of sight, at which point the SWAT Team withdrew from the house until a robot could be sent into the house to determine that no further threat existed.
Storie story stinks to high heaven. Granted it takes only seven seconds to empty the clip on one of those assault rifles they use, but under these circumstances I imagine seven seconds would seem like eternity. I find it hard to believe he was going anyplace, long before they put the sixtieth(!) round in him. And even if he did, couldn’t these FIVE big bad brave guys with their machine guns and Kevlar body armor had taken a couple of steps into the next room and secured the area until the paramedics arrived? I get a little impatient with folks who are always ready to accuse the cops of using excessive force when subduing a violent felon, but this is ridiculous.
Furthermore, why won’t authorities release the search warrant? Could it be that the Guerena address was not even listed on it? That might explain the confusion on the part of the dispatchers as to whether the Guerena residence was on the list of homes to be raided that morning by the SWAT Team. But we have no way of knowing for sure, since the search warrant has been sealed.
A Pima County Sherriff’s Department press release has defended the Department’s stonewalling the details of the case, claiming “a very real threat to innocent lives if those details are released prematurely.” But then why are the SWAT Team officers, through their lawyer, allowed to make those details public?
And finally, if José Guerena was important enough to merit all this attention, why didn’t they just send a couple of officers to the ASARCO Mission Mine and have his boss page him to come to the front office for a little chat? Wouldn’t that be preferable to smashing down his door and coming in with guns blazing?
It may turn out that there is more to this case than initially met the eye. But what I find absolutely appalling is the notion that the cops bashing down a citizen’s door and executing him in a hail of machine gun fire is the new normal, something that doesn’t even require an explanation.
Photo via Wikimedia Commons