Seventy-One Shots: The Death of Jose Guereña
A cynic might be tempted to suggest Dupnik’s SWAT team was waiting for the only witness to their assault to die. Considering how the Sheriff’s Department has acted since they stormed the home, a rational person might be tempted to agree.
Not content to blame the victim for his own death, they attempted to insinuate he was a drug dealer, even though they were forced to admit under direct questioning that no drugs were found in his home, and that a clumsy cop falling down may have triggered the bloodbath.
Vanessa Guereña claims that neither she nor her husband heard the officers announce themselves as police. As anyone who has ever seen an episode of any popular police reality show knows, no entry team waits 15 seconds after announcing themselves to batter down a door and rush the inhabitants -- as Pima County Lt. Michael O’Connor claims his SWAT team did. Identical scenes of immediate entry upon announcement (or after breaching), without giving those inside a chance to react, is a standard tactic captured again and again.
Why Lt. Michael O’Connor decided to tell a mistruth about a well-known, heavily documented, and highly standardized technique isn’t immediately clear. Perhaps it is because of the inevitable wrongful death lawsuit to be filed against the Pima County Sheriff’s Department on behalf of Vanessa Guereña and her two children. Or perhaps it is because of the possible DOJ civil rights investigation. Perhaps Dupnik’s employees simply are unable to act any more professionally after a raid than they do during one.
No-knock warrants are typically used to surprise the target of raids and keep them from disposing of evidence, with possible violence from the offender cited as justification for the military-style use of heavy armor and machine guns.
Jose Guereña’s death was entirely preventable. Over-armed, over-amped law enforcement is causing far more harm to the public than other tactics and techniques possibly could.
The over-militarization of law enforcement agencies and over-use of SWAT teams is an idea that needs to be revisited in a sane society. Too many good people have been traumatized, and too many killed, under the flimsiest of circumstances.
After surviving two tours of duty in Iraq, only to lose his life in an encounter with Clarence Dupnik’s keystone cops, Jose Guereña was buried with full military honors.