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Seventy-One Shots: The Death of Jose Guereña

Jose Guereña survived two tours in Iraq, but he couldn't survive his own government.

by
Bob Owens

Bio

May 25, 2011 - 12:00 am
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Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik infamously railed in January of this year that Arizona is a “Mecca for prejudice and bigotry.”

One must wonder if the “prejudice and bigotry” he considers endemic to Arizona is to blame for the death of U.S. Marine veteran Jose Guereña, killed when Dupnik’s deputies gunned him down in his home. They fired 71 shots. They hit him 60 times. And then, as if this wasn’t enough, Dupnik’s deputies blocked paramedics for an hour and 14 minutes from approaching the scene, denying Guereña treatment until he was assuredly dead.

Dupnik’s SWAT team initially claimed that Guereña fired at them while they were serving a warrant — as he slept. They claimed that his bullets hit the bulletproof shield that the entry team hid behind, and that the barrage of bullets they fired back was in self-defense.

Only, Guereña never fired his weapon. Awoken by his wife with screams that men with guns were invading his home and threatening his family, Jose Guereña armed himself with a AR-15 rifle and crouched in the hallway. The SWAT team unloaded upon Guereña on sight. He apparently recognized the home invaders as police. He took 60 rounds, but never — as the Pima County Sheriff’s Department was forced to admit — took off his weapon’s safety as he was being killed.

Prejudice and bigotry?

It was, you’ll recall, a claim Dupnik made in the wake of Jared Loughner’s bloodly rampage at a “Congress in your Corner” event at a Safeway supermarket in Tucson, where six were killed and 14 others were injured — including, gravely, Rep. Gabrielle Giffords. Dupnik was attempting to blame the conservative Tea Party movement for the shooting when he made the comment. And even after it was revealed that Loughner’s few known political views had been described as “quite liberal,” and were in fact muddled at best, he refused to retract his slur.

So when Dupnik’s teams attempted a complicated four-house raid of minority families looking for drugs, perhaps bigotry and prejudice really was in play.

Perhaps Dupnik’s officers assumed every Hispanic accused of being a drug dealer really was one, and perhaps they assumed that the tenant of a home protecting his loved ones must be a bloodthirsty cartel member waiting in ambush. Is that why they gunned down a tired, hard-working father sleeping off a night shift at the local copper mine? A Marine veteran of Iraq that had the discipline not to fire — a discipline that a trigger-happy SWAT team which has now killed three men in less than a year cannot itself exercise?

Not only has the Pima Sheriff’s Department tried to justify firing 71 shots at one man in a small hallway, hitting him (thankfully, just him) 60 times in a home where his wife and child were present. They’ve attempted to justify their refusal to let a team of paramedics treat Guereña, who was still miraculously alive after being sprayed mercilessly with bullets. It takes a competent SWAT team just a handful of minutes to “clear” a residential home during a raid. Dupnik’s SWAT team refused to declare the scene “clear” for an agonizing one hour and 14 minutes, and not until Jose Guereña had already died.

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