2 Tucson Police Shootings: Cops fire 120+ Rounds, Suspects fire 0

Published On May 18, 2011 | By CopBlock | Articles

Recently, a whole lot of lead has been flying in the otherwise sleepy desert berg of Tucson, Arizona. A few days ago, a Pima County Sheriff’s Office SWAT team descended upon a former Marine’s house at 9 in the morning to serve a search warrant pursuant to a drug investigation. Within 7 seconds of their arrival, 72 shots were fired and the homeowner, Jose Guereña lay dying on his kitchen floor. Despite former Surgeon General and co-founder of the PCSO SWAT team Richard Carmona’s assurances the unit’s members included highly trained medics capable of first-rate battlefield medicine, and such “care is not [rendered] according to good guy or bad guy or suspect. Whoever needs the care, gets the care as quickly and safely as possible,” Guereña lay struggling for his life for well over an hour before medics were allowed in. Despite arriving within 2 minutes of his wife’s desperate 911 call, they were told to wait. And wait they did, until they were finally given a “code 900,” meaning the suspect was dead and their life-saving services were no longer needed. Guereña’s wife and child fled past him after the barrage of rifle fire was over and deputies rousted them from their hiding place in a bedroom closet. Vanessa Guereña begged officials to render aid to her husband the whole time, but to no avail.

The Pima County Sheriff’s Office has not released any details about the warrant, what they were looking for or what they got, besides a cryptic notice that they “found information pertinent to the investigation.” What is clear is that there was no arrest warrant, nor were any drugs, illegal guns or cash found at the residence of Jose Guereña. So far, the details have been very slow to come out. At first, Sheriff’s Deputies insisted that Guereña had fired his AR-15 rifle at them, forcing them to open fire, but now they admit that they fired first, and he died holding that gun with the safety still on. According to Michael O’Connor, as quoted by the Arizona Daily Star, “a deputy’s bullet struck the side of the doorway, causing chips of wood to fall on his shield, that prompted some members of the team to think the deputy had been shot.”

Some may be inclined to ask, “who cares if some drug dealer got killed pointing his rifle at the cops?” However, there is no evidence Mr. Guereña was a drug dealer, nor is it clear he had any idea that the armed men barging into his home were cops. That same spokes-bureaucrat, Mr. O’Connor insisted, “Tucson is notorious for home invasions and we didn’t want it to look like that,” ignoring the obvious fact that, aside from official government sanction and some chincy costume jewelry, that’s exactly what it was. Deputies say they clearly identified themselves, but witnesses, including Vanessa Guereña disagree. Jose had returned from the night shift at the Asarco mine only a few hours before the raid. His wife woke him up when she heard noises outside her window and saw a man with a gun. Jose told her to hide in the closet with their son, and he grabbed a rifle and went to the door to investigate.

Surely, his Marine training, honed by two tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan came into play, because he crouched in a ready position and awaited the invaders. Days later, the PCSO would say that he told them he had “something for them,” as they kicked his door in, as if such a statement incriminated him. Normally, everyone would agree that a man has every right to defend his home and family against armed aggression, even if he spouts pithy catchphrases in the face of certain death, but when members of the state’s high caste of official violence are involved, the slightest hint of resistance is deemed a criminal act, even if the victim has no idea why or by whom he’s being attacked.

Jose was just 26 years old, and he leaves an even younger widow. His 4-year-old son saw his father dying in his own home. If the PCSO has any damning evidence suggesting he was a real criminal, they’re certainly being tight lipped about it, but neither Jose nor Vanessa has any criminal record of any kind. Given the gravity of the situation, if Guereña was a real threat to society, I think it would have come out by now.

The bottom line is, SWAT teams were created for handling dangerous hostage situations, not serving routine search warrants. Even if Guereña was guilty of some kind of drug crime, summary execution is obviously not an appropriate punishment. Reasonable people must ask, in what universe is it appropriate to fire 72 rounds into a residence in order to subdue ONE MAN? Obviously, this highly militarized SWAT team was just itching for action, and furthermore, their dubious training of emptying magazines at the slightest provocation led to this terrible outcome. They were not reacting to a genuine hostile fire situation, but rather to the negligent discharge of one of their own men, a guy apparently amped up on adrenaline and woefully unaware of the basic “no booger hook on the bang switch” gun safety rule.

This brings me to the next case of negligent firearm discharge by police here in the Old Pueblo. Back in March, Tucson police confronted a man suspected of a carjacking and an armed convenience store robbery at the apartment complex where they had tracked him down. After a police officer took his accomplice, Roger Wells, into custody, the driver of the car, Nicholas Johnson, threw his vehicle into reverse in an effort to escape, and in the process, caught the officer up in the rear driver-side door, which was ajar. After the officer was dragged a few feet, he was able to roll free, and Johnson put the car in drive and tried to get away, but the cop was still in front of the car. This prompted all 7 of the police officers present, including the officer on the ground, to open fire on the car, despite there being an innocent female passenger inside. A total of 53 round were fired, but only 7 hit the suspect (including one shotgun blast), and a bullet grazed an innocent female passenger in the car. Fortunately, no one else was hurt, but Nicholas was killed on the spot, though not before being chewed on by a police dog for good measure. No one in the car ever fired a shot, or was found to be in possession of a firearm.

This “magazine dumping” policy of what amounts to summary execution (Guereña was hit over 60 times, the PCSO SWAT team being apparently better marksmen than their TPD colleagues) demonstrates a depraved indifference to human life and the property of others. Police officers have every right to defend themselves against aggression from real criminal suspects high on drugs, but trigger happy adrenaline junkies who shoot first, and keep on shooting until there’s nothing left in the magazine (then reload and do it again), are a danger to everyone, even each other. Even more so, now that the Supreme Court has ruled that police have every right to kick in your door, without obtaining a search warrant, if they “hear noises” they believe to be the result of the destruction of evidence. Worse yet, at least for the residents of Indiana, their Supreme Court’s two most recent decisions have essentially repudiated the Magna Carta and the 4th Amendment, officially codifying what we have long known to be true here at Cop Block – there exists no legal right to resist violent assault by the state’s armed enforcers, even when they are obviously in violation of the law (which is now technically not possible, since whatever they do is now presumed to be legitimate; they finally ARE the law). You must always submit, citizen. These godawful rulings were predicated on the assumption that modern courts provide defendants with a wide range of options for legal redress, and are the appropriate venue for adjudicating any dispute over the validity of an arrest, search or other police action. Yeah, right. Tell that to Jose Guereña. Oh, wait…

UPDATE: Fellow Southern Arizonan Ghost32 asks some very important questions about this shooting. (HT: Reason’s Hit & Run blog)

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  • Bergman

    And even if you do submit without offering the slightest resistance, that won’t protect you from a cop who has his finger inside the trigger guard and trips over the doorjamb. His accomplices will all open fire at the first sound of gunfire.

  • dougo

    Once they start they don,t stop because it,s cheaper to pay for a dead person than a half deab or wounded person.That is what I have heard direct from many a cop and d.a.s mouth.It is a disgusting evil truth!

  • Larry in Va

    this is unacceptable……this demands the DOJ hurriedly involve themselves in this so that no evidence is destroyed or overlooked.

    Clearly this young hero was gunned down by criminals set on spending a good portion of the departments ammo budget on that job.

    This literally makes me think of a mob hit just based on the number of rounds fired……

    I am so utterly disgusted and angry that so called “police officer” really criminals acting under color of law can get away with this.

  • http://facebook ma

    what the hell is wrong with the police in tucson, not enf. bad guys they have to become them.. sad day for the police that this is let go on.. there govener needs to send in real cops an clean it up.

  • tyler

    I am so sickened by what this Sheriff’s Department has done and is doing, I’m not even sure I can write this but I will try to see beyond my rage!
    Well Pima County Sheriff’s Office, murdering Marines now eh? I hope you’re proud!
    Your day of judgment has arrived at the expense of this young man’s life and by the time the investigations are over YOU will one the most hated departments in the United States.
    All your dirty deeds are about to be brought into the light. Better hurry and start shredding documents and getting your stories straight!
    You have disgraced your profession and all those dedicated men and women in blue who are dedicated to PUBLIC TRUST! Words that obviously have no meaning to you!
    I am very glad YOU chose to stupidly remain silent for the first two weeks, another gross mistake that exhibits your unwillingness to even attempt to repair this situation which is the FIRST thing you should have done. Yes there are things that you could not do but there were MANY things you could have done!
    YOU SHOULD HAVE ACTED IMMEDIATELY and done everything in your power to assist the family of this Soldier you butchered though one means or another.
    Instead your silence shouted only one thing to an angry PUBLIC, the people YOU are supposed to serve, that one thing? COVERUP! You will never be believed no matter what you say or how many times you say it!
    Then you chose to blame the victim? Do you really think the public is that stupid?
    How dare you insult our collective intelligence!
    We all know that the one of the first things a victimizer does is to blame the victim!
    You’re not only blaming the victim but his family and associates as well!
    TAKE RESPONSIBILITY!
    STOP JUSTIFYING WHAT YOU DID AND FALL ON YOUR SWORDS!
    In doing so, at least you’ll be remembered for having done the right thing and at least you’ll be able live with yourselves.
    Here is the short version of your future heading and place in history, Expedia etc.

    Pima County Sheriff’s Department
    This department and its subsequent proceedings in attempting to cover up the actions of their SWAT team came to be known as one of the worst betrayers of the public trust after the murder of Jose Guerena, 26, a former Marine. (ref. Jose Guerena) , not only in his murder but their later course of action.
    As the story unfolded, this department then chose to cover up and excuse the actions of their SWAT team. Their desperate attempt to distort the facts led to one blatant blunder after another and became an adventure akin to a black and white slap stick police comedy.
    These actions were later exposed in court proceedings and declared to be perhaps the most obvious and barefaced misrepresentation of the facts ever by a ‘Police Organization.”
    Additionally, the preposterous smear campaign of the victim, associates and family that the Sheriffs department attempted to sell to the public was exposed in court proceedings and resulted in the termination of numerous officers, others voluntarily resigned or were forced to do so.
    The former Pima County Sheriff’s Office now exists only in text books and serves as a model of everything NOT to do.
    Further, national and local public outrage at these departments’ actions led to a nationwide re-examination of all SWAT and similar teams in the redefinition of their operative procedures.
    Pima County Sheriff’s Department was re-named to remove the horrendous blight its former name came to represent. (End)
    To all you other hard working Peace Officers, I apologize for the disgrace these actions have caused you and hope Pima County at some point issues a formal statement of apology to all of you!

  • tyler

    You don’t need to post this, I just wanted to say thanks for letting that message out.

    Jose was the last straw for me, I am sick to death of the blatant murder of our citizens by psychos in uniforms who disgrace those officers who are dedicated.

    We can send men to the moon and satellites into deep space but cant find humane ways to subdue people!

  • iol

    ok the first story was a bit messed up but the second i feel was acceptable

  • Big Red

    The cops should be indicted for first degree murder under color of law convicted and executed. That’s more than the citizens got. They were summarily executed. The feds ought to go after the Sheriff and the Sheriffs Department under the RICO statute.Indict them,convict them and jail the whole bunch. Case closed.

  • Trees

    SOLDIERS! Why do you fight on foreign shores when the real enemy is HERE AT HOME???

  • JG

    Its time people stop complaining about this overly aggressive police state and take matters into their own hands. All of these cops should be tried for murder. And if they are not then justice should be dealt vigilantly.

  • johndoe

    A search warrant was obtained, meaning an objective third party (judge) reviewed te evidence and decided that more likely than not there was evidence of a crime in the man’s house. The suspect is the one who chose to meet the police with a rifle in his hand after they had announced themselves. If the suspect had not armed himself he would most likely be alive to refute the.charges against him. The fact that he did not fire is irrelevant. He presented a weapon and is therefore a threat to officers. The officer who had a negligent discharge should be terminated.

  • Dylboz

    Mr. Doe,

    The police have essentially admitted that their search warrant did not meet 4th Amendment standards, as it didn’t list anything in the house, nor Guereña or anyone else in particular. Also, there is NO ONE in the neighborhood who will corroborate the PCSD’s assertion that they knocked and announced, or that they used sirens as they approached. In fact, there is evidence that they actually kicked in the door of another house not listed on the warrant across the street (and have since paid to have the door replaced), even before setting upon the Guereña household. No, this was a death squad execution, no matter what “procedures” were followed, or who signed off on it in advance.

  • andrew

    lets not forget that “swat team” is primarily made up of prior service members of the armed forces not having control of your weapon at all times results in ucmj action.

  • johndoe

    Mr Dylboz,

    What happened was a trajedy as is any loss of life. However, i was able to view the video of the shootout and the police did have the sirens on. Also it is clear that they knocked and announced prior to breaching the door. In addition he gunfight took place only seconds after making entry which means te suspect had his weapon already trained on the door. As for the search warrant not meeting 4th amendment requirements, if true, that is an issue to be taken up wih the judge who signed it and not the SO.

    I am not saying that this man was absolutely guilty of what he was accused. This could very well have been a perfect storm of coincidence and misunderstandings. However, in light of the video evidence it appears that the SO hit every fail safe that is designed to protect US citizens from unreasonable search and seizure. If he suspect had done nothing wrong this is at worst a horrible accident that in which the SO acted in good fait and completely reasonably.

    As for the medical aid, if true, the SO has a losing law suit on their hands as hey should. It is their dut to render aid regardless. I just caution everyone that thwre is always two sides to every story.

  • http://su Ghanson

    With the militarization of our police departments that is happening all over the US we can expect this type of action to happen again, and again. The military requireds them to kill first then ask question. Police don’t even give supects their rights any more, unless pressed by the courts. Arizona is like the Vatican they are a country within a country. Arizona state laws supersede the laws of the other 49 states. This incident will be covered up and they will find this exmarine to be part of the Mexican drug cartel, thereby justifying their aactions. You know how quick the medical aide would have been there if this was a officer, within seconds, within minutes the officer would be in the hospital. Citizen of American this is your future with our new militarized police departments.

  • Brian Fleig

    Those fuckers deserve the death penalty.

  • SD

    I’m from Tucson, and I have seen drug users and criminals join TPD in order to continue said behaviors with no repercussion.

    Tucson is in no way a sleepy desert berg. Nightly drive by shootings and crime rates that rival major cities. Law abiding citizens have to be leery of all people in that place. I’m glad I’m no longer raising my children there.

  • teknikAL

    @ johndoe May 27, 2011 at 11:07 pm: “i was able to view the video of the shootout”…. post a link so we all can view it, unless there is no link nor video and you are just another apologist.
    The second incident described resembles an incident from 2009 or 2010 in Ithaca, New York. A young parolee was called at his home by a court officer and asked to come to a local convenient store to speak with an officer away from his family. It is not clear if the call was from his parole officer or some other official, but the kid did just as he was told and went to the store.
    Witnesses at the store said they saw the kid come out of the store, get into his car and put it in gear. At that time three officers pulled up, blocked his car in and one approached him and briefly spoke to him. Witnesses said the officer reached into the car and the brake lights went off and the car lurched forward. An other officer jumped in front of the moving car, slipped and fell as the car popped up on the curb. The other officer at the window opened fire, 3 to 5 shots, killing the kid instantly. News reports were locked down, info was not shared by the PD nor courts, witnesses were threatened with jail if they spoke to anyone, security video was “unusable” from the multiple cameras at the gas/convenient store and the incident disappeared except for a blurb in the back of the Ithaca Journal when the young officer was cleared. No publicly available record of anything pertaining to the incident (outside of the one sided officer’s report) nor the “investigation” into the event.
    Many in the community knew that two weeks prior, the officer was alleged to have been knocked out in a bar fight by the guy he shot as they apparently had a long standing personal beef since attending the local school together.
    Rumor is really all the community had as no witness spoke in public, and they feared for their own lives.

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