Seventy-One Rounds in Tucson: The SWAT Shooting of Jose Guerena
All evidence suggests an incompetent investigation and raid resulted in the death of an innocent father and Marine.
October 6, 2011 - 12:00 am
While Jose was securing his family as best he could, the police sounded a siren for less than nine seconds, and knocked on the door and announced themselves for only seven seconds, not nearly sufficient time for anyone to answer the door. When they broke in the front door, everything fell apart.
Rather than immediately entering behind their shield man, they stood, bunched in the doorway. Likely, they were blind. Stepping out of bright morning sunlight into the completely dark home of a man who slept during the day, their vision was compromised. For reasons never explained, one officer began firing, and four others quickly joined in, firing 70 rounds within eight seconds, stopping only when they emptied their magazines or their weapons malfunctioned. There was a two-second silence, and again, for reasons never explained, one final round was fired.
During the panicky fusillade, the shield man somehow fell down, ending up on his back with his shield pointing outward toward the police video camera. Rather than entering, the police stood in stunned immobility, eventually retreating for cover, dragging their shield man with them.
Hit 22 times, Jose Guerena was still breathing but immobile. The Guerena home looked like a sieve. Police bullets shredded it from floor to ceiling and wall-to-wall. At least ten rounds completely penetrated the house, several striking at least one neighboring home. Miraculously, Vanessa and her son were unhurt.
The police even managed to shoot holes in the walls and doorframe surrounding the front door where they stood. It is a miracle that they did not shoot each other.
Stunned and intimidated by what they believed to be resistance, the police would not reenter the home for 74 minutes, during which time they sent two robots into the home to poke and prod Guerena who lay, unmoving, in an ever-expanding pool of blood. The police made a conscious decision to allow him to bleed out and die, even having him declared dead at long distance by a doctor who would never lay eyes on him.
During those 74 minutes, Vanessa Guerena came to the front door and was grabbed and removed by the police, leaving her son alone in the house with his dying father. She told them that her son was still in the home, too frightened to move. She repeatedly begged them to provide medical treatment for Jose. They ignored her.
Despite Vanessa telling them that she and her son were the only other people in the home, despite no evidence to the contrary, despite knowing that Jose was immobile, dying, or dead, the police concluded that there must be a barricaded, hostile suspect in the home.
They formulated a plan to “rescue” the child from the back bedroom, but if they did not immediately find him, they planned to abruptly retreat. They actually intended to completely enter the home with multiple officers, and if they failed to find the child, to turn around and traverse the entire depth of the home, surrendering it again. Fortunately, as they prepared to put this daring plan into action, the child came, unbidden, to the front door. They seized and removed him.
When they entered, they assigned two officers to cover the unmoving, obviously dead Guerena. Only then did they discover that the safety of his rifle had not been disengaged; he had not fired a shot. The police fired 71 rounds in response to no resistance at all. Even so, for many hours, the police claimed that Guerena fired at them first. It is a claim they will be forced to hastily retract. They are alive today because Jose Guerena was sufficiently well-trained and honorable never to fire on police officers, no matter the circumstance.
After discovering that Guerena provided no resistance, the police began a desperate campaign to justify the unjustifiable. While searching the Guerena home top to bottom, they repeatedly interviewed Vanessa Guerena.
Fictionalized accounts of police work have done the public a disservice in many ways. One need not be told “You are under arrest” by a police officer to be arrested. If you have ever received a traffic ticket, you’ve been arrested. An arrest occurs when someone is being detained by the police and reasonably believes that they are not free to go. Under some circumstances — commonly known as “stop and frisk” — the police may detain people for a short time, say 15 minutes, to determine their identification and actions. But this is another body of law.
Imagine Vanessa Guerena’s state of mind as the police forced her to be seated in their local “command post.” No fewer than three detectives were present. Her husband had only a few hours earlier been shot.