Seventy-one rounds of ammo were unloaded in seven seconds on Jose Guerena, an ex-Marine who served two tours of Iraq.
The gunfire wasn’t unleashed by insurgents from opposing military forces, however. The 60 bullets that entered Guerena’s body were fired by an Arizona SWAT team as Guerena’s wife Vanessa and their four-year-old son Juan hid in a closet at around 9:30 am on a Thursday morning. It happened only earlier this month in their Tuscon, Arizona-area home.
According to police, the Guerena residence was targeted in an investigation surrounding home invasions and drug rip-offs. Police says their house was among those “identified as locations where these activities were being carried out from.” What hard evidence they have for this has not been disclosed.
What we do know, more or less, is that Vanessa heard noises and saw a man outside their window on the morning of May 5. She woke her husband up, who then grabbed a rifle and walked toward the kitchen. There he was shot dozens of times within the mere moments after. Guerena’s possession of the AR-15 was completely legal and it was never fired.
What followed immediately was a poorly-handed 911 call dialed by Mrs. Guerena as she watched her husband grunt on the ground in front of his family, gasping his last breaths of life. She pled with the emergency operators to send help for five minutes while they deemed her “hysterical.” Once they did arrive, it was an hour and 14 minutes before EMTs were allowed access to the wounded Guerena; the SWAT team wouldn’t allow them near.
Mrs. Guerena is now widowed and her two children, Jose and Joel, will enter the first grade without a father.
“I never thought he could be killed by police after he served his country," Vanessa Guerena says.
"We were so worried when he was over there fighting terrorism, but he gets shot in his own home," says Reyna Ortiz, a family relative, to ABC News. "The government killed one of their own."
In the days since the shooting, the Pima County Sheriff’s Department has changed their story several times. First Guerena fired a weapon; then he didn’t. As of May 19, the Sheriff’s Department has remained relatively mum on what was seized from the home and why they were there in the first place. The latest out of their department was a scold against the media—for “questioning the legality” of the shooting.
Originally police attested that Guerena fired a gun. Further investigations reveal that his rifle was locked in safety mode and that his single shot was actually just an initial misfire from a deputy’s gun. They claim to have removed body armor from the home, but as the lawyer representing the Guerena estate says, there was nothing in the house warranting a raid, let alone opening fire.
Guerena family attorney Christopher Scileppi says the pieces don’t fit. “They found nothing in the house that was illegal," he says. Disallowing medical attention was "nonsense," Scileppi says, noting that an ambulance was on the scene in minutes but Guerena remained unattended for another hour.
“I think it was poor planning, overreaction and now they're trying to CYA," says Scileppi, referencing the professional (mis)practice of “covering your ass” in an effort to protect oneself after an unfavorable aftermath.
And while PCSD officials have yet to provide a legitimate and logical reason for the execution of Mr. Guerena, it is only a sampling of an injustice and unnecessary use of excessive force by SWAT teams—an epidemic that is happening daily around America yet rarely reported.
A Buffalo, NY man was woken up by authorities with assault weapons drawn last month, allegedly for downloading child pornography. While he laid on his floor and was chastised by officials—called a creep and blatantly accused of crimes he did not commit—he remained clueless. They had the wrong guy. In 2008, a resident of Berwyn Heights, MD was interrogated in his underwear in his home for several hours after he brought a FedEx package containing marijuana—and addressed to his wife—into his home. The SWAT team shot both his dogs. The accused—Cheye Calvo—was the mayor of the town.
In a 2006 book from Reason Magazine’ Radley Balko, he says, "There's an old Cold War saying commonly attributed to Winston Churchill…that goes, 'Democracy means that when there's a knock on the door at 3 a.m., it's probably the milkman.' The idea is that free societies don't send armed government agents dressed in black to raid the private homes of citizens for political crimes."
Regardless, in the “freest country in the world,” raids like these are becoming more and more commonplace. In Guerena’s case, unfortunately, an American hero was executed in his own home for no good reason.