Raw Video: Attorney gives SWAT's side of story in fatal shooting
Attorney Michael Storie represents the SWAT team who fatally shot Jose Guerena in the May 5 raid at the Guerena house.
Storie held a news conference Thursday and released several new details regarding the incident. He detailed why SWAT was serving a search warrant and what they found; he gave a reason for why paramedics waiting at the scene were not allowed inside the house to treat Guerena after he was shot.
Storie told KGUN9 that a SWAT robot was sent into the home to examine the threat level, and by then, it was too late for Guerena.
Storie also says officers were watching Guerena's home for days, suspecting that it was part of an organization involving drugs and home invasions and at some point, a man who looked like Guerena conducted counter surveillance according to detectives.
The raw video clip available in the Video Gallery at left contains the first part of that press conference leading up to the point where SWAT officers opened fire on the suspect. Below in Italics is a transcript of Storie's remarks to that point.
There have been a lot of questions that have been asked about this particular situation. And due to no one's fault, they have not been able to provide a lot of details. So, after meeting with all the officers involved, I thought it's time to finally get some of the details of the situation out there, so there isn't this appearance of cover up, secrecy, and appearance that maybe something's been done wrong. So I'm going to run through the details of this situation from a tactical standpoint, as to exactly what happened, and then afterwards, whatever questions you might have.
Now, this was a SWAT callout, which by its very nature means that it's a high risk callout. So you all understand, there are hundreds of warrants served every day in Tucson. The SWAT team is involved in only a very small percentage of those. They are involved in serving of warrants where there is a history of violence, there is drugs involved, and weapons. And so we can assume that all of these were the case here.
As is usually the case, there was a briefing approximately an hour and a half before this incident, where investigators, detectives who had been working this situation, briefed these SWAT officers about what was going on. And the situation was, that there is an organization that is involved in drugs, home invasions, drug ripoffs, violent crimes. And this house, as well as several other houses, were identified as locations where these activities were being carried out from. So, warrants were served on these houses, and there was some surveillance done.
Now, in the days leading up to this event, these detectives determined that the occupants of this very house where this incident occurred were carrying on counter-surveillance. Now, what I mean by that is, at some point detectives, as is usually the case, were driving by this house to get some intelligence. At one point, when detectives were driving past the house once, the resident of this house, suspected to be Guereno, jumped in his car and followed this detective. They then got a report from MVD that there was a hit on this license plate driven by this detective by someone. So, Guereno or someone very similar to him, who followed this detective, searched the identity of this driver, who was the owner of this vehicle. This is known as counter-surveillance measures done by people who are in this type of business. OK? So with all this information leading up to this event, SWAT is informed about these things.
This operation is going to be carried on simultaneously with on other location. The members of this SWAT team approached this house, as they do every other house. And now, the timing of this -- was 9:30 in the morning -- was picked, because if there are children involved, this would be a time they would be at school. They had no specific information about what particular kids were in this house, or if there were any. But they wanted to maximize the chance that they would be gone, if there were kids.
At 9:30 AM, several marked units, including the Bearcat, approached the house. Now, this is not done quietly or stealthfully. This is done with sirens going, lights going. so with all this happening, sirens going, lights going, the Bearcat, which is clearly a marked vehicle, is parked right directly in the driveway blocking the exit of the residents' vehicle. Another marked vehicle is parked right in front of he residence. A Sahuarita vehicle is parked in parked in front with his lights going, and they are blasting their sirens. All of the neighbors know what is going on. They hear the sirens. They see the lights. Anyone who's paying attention or is even alive in that neighborhood knows police are on the scene.
Immediately the entry team exits the vehicles and approaches the house. What happens is, they stop the sirens,so that the verbal commands can be heard. The breach team approaches the front door. And immediately, one of the operators immediately, as he is running up on the residence, is yelling in Spanish and English, alternating commands, "Police! Police! Police!" -- identifying themselves and to open the door. He makes multiple commands of this sort. He then approaches the door with the team, and bangs on the door. He doesn't knock, he bangs with his fists very hard on the door, several times. After banging, he then calls again, "Police!" in Spanish, "Police!" in English. They wait. He bangs again on the door, hard, with his fist, banging on this door. And this is not a large house. It's a normal house, where this would be heard. There's no music playing in the house, no loud TV, nothing that would indicate that people on the inside would not be hearing this banging and the commands. So he's banging on the door again, "Police! Police!" Banging on the door a second time. Gives a third set of commands. They wait. They wait at least 45 seconds to a minute, while this banging is going on, and the commands are going on, for a response. There is no response. The breach order is then given.
The door is breached. They bang it open. The door is breached. The entry team stands in the doorway. And the way it works is, there is an operator who has a shield. There are operators who are behind the shield operator. And they have specific duties -- Where to look down the hallway, what their duties are as far as cover. Because they don't know what they are coming into. All they can assume is, A, there are dangerous people inside. B, there are guns involved. And C, that these people have used them in the past and will use them now.
In the search warrant that's sealed, they are looking for these very items. And I will tell you that these very items are found. So everything they think they're going to find in there, they find.
So, they breach the door. Almost immediately, down this long hallway, they see a figure, a man, who jumps out from the right side, jumps out from the right, he's got a rifle, an AR 15 at his side, an assault rifle. Now, SWAT operators are trained, an assault rifle will penetrate the shield they carry, and the body armor that they carry. Their armor is not ballistically rated to stop assault rifle rounds. So they know immediately, they are not equipped to stop this just by their armor. They also know that these walls are stucco, that if this man starts shooting his rounds, every neighbor in the vicinity is in danger, including possible innocent residents that are in this residence itself. This man does not stop at this point, down at the end of the hall. He comes into view... He's go this assault rifle at his side. He turns, sees these men, who are with shields and armor, helmets and are marked "Police". Everything they're wearing, their helmets say "Police," their fronts say "Police," the shield that they carry says "Police" on it. So they're identified multiple ways that they are police. And it's fully lit up. They're in the doorway. It's broad daylight.
This man turns, makes a visual of these operators, fully marked with "Police." And what does he do? Does he drop his weapon? "Oh, it's police," drop his weapon? No. Does he just stand there? No. He heightens the threat by raising the gun and pointing it at the SWAt operators. Not only does he point the weapon, he says to the SWAT operators, "I have something for you. I have something for you guys." That's what he yells at them.
Three of the SWAT officers report that independently. And remember, they are separated right after the shooting. They don't compare stories, and "What did you hear?" Independently, three of these officers hear this man say, "I have something for you," raise the weapon. And that's all they need. Because they have to assume at this point that this man has not complied. He's heard they're police. He's seen they are police. He raises the weapon toward them. They immediately fire.
Now, the first one that fires is also armed with an AR 15, and he is to the right and behind the shield operator. What he reports seeing is that the man at the end of the hallway goes from a standing position, sort of crouches down to a kneeling position, and is sort of reassessing, and is taking a shooting position. So in other words, he's not getting hit, and the guns goes flying, and the threat removed. That's not what's happening. He retains control of the weapon, and he continues to take a shooting stance as he goes down. They don't know if he's been hit, they don't assume he's been hit. All they know is that he's still a threat. They continue to fire.
Now, several officers did report that they saw a muzzle flash from the shooter, from the suspect at the end of the hall. That's where the report initially came out that the suspect had been firing. Several of the operators do not report muzzle flash. Nobody reports that they heard him fire, and that's common because they're in a closed area, and they get auditory, strange things going on, where they don't hear. All they hear is all the firing going on around them. Two of them report muzzle flash.