Video, info release fails to quell viewer debate over fatal SWAT raid
Notes by: Forrest Carr, KGUN9 News Director
If anyone thought that the release of video and a mountain of documents would settle the debate over the May 5 SWAT raid that killed a former U.S. Marine, they were wrong. Viewer comments to KGUN9 News show, if anything, that the debate has grown even more vociferous, more passionate, and nastier. Viewers are lashing out at the family, police, each other, and KGUN9 News.
Video shot during the raid shows that the SWAT team sounded its siren for about 8 seconds on the morning of the raid. Team members jumped out and began shouting commands to the closed door, identifying themselves as police. 30 seconds after the siren first sounded, the team was breaking down the door. 5 seconds after that, shooting erupted. Within another seven seconds, the shooting had ended. Total elapsed time from the first blast of the siren to the final shot -- about 45 seconds.
The details of this story have evolved several times since the day of the shooting, with both sides saying things that turned out to be untrue, or reaching incorrect conclusions. The Sheriff's Department said that initially, SWAT members thought one of their officers had been hit. That turned out not to be the case. The department initially reported that Guerena had fired his rifle. That turned out not to be the case, either. Guerena's wife, Vanessa, said she never heard a siren and never heard SWAT members identifying themselves as police officers until after the shooting erupted. The public now has proof that there was a siren and that SWAT officers did identify themselves; what Ms. Guerena actually heard, or thought she heard, only she can say. The Sheriff's Department confirmed earlier that the team expended 71 rounds in those seven seconds. The family initially said Guerena suffered 60 hits. On Friday afternoon the medical examiner's office told KGUN9 News by phone that its report, once it's issued, will show 22 wounds.
Some parts of Guerena's past have also come forward. A mugshot was released by the Pinal County Sheriff's Department. A spokesperson did not have any details of the case but an attorney for the SWAT team says Guerena was arrested for his part in a drug smuggling bust.
The release of these facts answered key questions but did not succeed in ending the debate. The story has now gone international, and locally, KGUN9 viewers are even more vocal now than they were before. Comments have been flooding in.
"Guest(1)" writes: "They expected him to figure out what was happening in less than 45 seconds from waking up? Are you kidding me?"
"Guest(2)" writes: "This sickens me. I'm awake and listening to a recording taken outside the house and I can't understand what the SWAT team is yelling (although I hear someone clearly saying 'bang bang bang.' From what I see, they break down a door and start shooting into a house with one sleepy man, his wife and 4-year old son inside, sending bullets into neighboring houses. And for what? To make sure he didn't flush his Jesus Malvarde icon down the toilet? Shame on them for doing this in the first place. Shame of them for insisting they did nothing wrong. Shame on them for doubling down and slandering this poor man after killing him and terrorizing his family."
"Guest(3)" writes: "You obviously have nothing to do with law enforcement. If you did, you would know that the 'bang bang bang' came from the radio in the vehicle not from the officers at the door. It is a shame that all of you are so quick to blame the police. I'm not saying they are right, but I'm definitely not saying they wrong. You are all the ones who expect the police to be at your house within seconds if something bad is happening to you, but will be the first to sue them, when things don't go your way."
"Guest(4)" writes: "The police lied -- they never used a siren. The police lied -- they never knocked. The police lied -- they just shot him without warning. UH OH Mr Carr. I told you you backed the wrong horse. Sirens, a minute of knocking, fully marked vehicles and uniforms, not a no-knock. INSIDE an enclosed vehicle with an FM radio AND police radio you can clearly hear 'Police search warrant' REPEATEDLY. All of the critics should be proud. You made heroes out of a bunch of criminals who tried to kill police officers. Called the cops liars and jumped the gun. Way to go Faux News Jr! Carrr, you're an idiot, podunk reporter. Your next story should be on a bake sale."
"Guest(5)" writes: "Who the hell are you to call the American hero inside that house a dirt bag? You may think the policy acted correctly, but you have no place disrespecting the man inside that house."
"New user" writes: "The morons like you would be murdered by the scum of society."
"sweetpee83" writes: "Finally, people can shut their mouths and that lying wife of his can shut her with all the LIES. The cops deserve some respect and everyone needs to say sorry. No one should judge before they know all the facts. They acted professional and did everything by the book!"
"firedoc335" writes: "From the video I just looked at, that is NOT a siren, but a car alarm, there was no shouting of 'Police, Search Warrant!', and the shooting started almost immediately after entering the door. To address some other issues I read here, it is not illegal to have body armor, or weapons in your home. The 2nd Amendment to the Constitution says this. (Not specifically body armor, but the right to bear arms to protect ones self). As a former Police Officer, I'm not going to condemn the officers just from this short clip, but from what is shown, they did not follow procedure. To know exactly what happened, the full video, including what happened in the house would have to be examined, which I'm sure the Internal Affairs investigators will do."
"Guest" writes: "firedoc335 how is it that you don't hear them yelling 'Sheriff's Dept' and turns out that really is a siren. They did everything exactly as they said. They are trained to take action in the face of a threat. Are they supposed to stop and say 'hey dude is the safety on?' Bottom line you don't come at cops with a gun and expect to walk away."
"DirtDiver76" writes: "What is with all the indiscriminate firing in the foreground? EVER HEARD OF CONTROLLED FIRE? ... Is it common practice, to allow the individual to bleed out, while medical personnel are standing right outside? And really? 71 shots? Wow, good marksmanship guys. You have obviously never been in a combat zone, where every shot counts and you conserve your ammo, oh yeah, and you attain PID! 71 shots. ROTFLMAO! JOKE! Dudes, stay the hell out of my neighborhood, I don't need protection like that."
"pmla96" writes: "We are family to the victim. His wife saw someone in her sons bedroom window and begged him not to shoot her cuz she had a kid and that's when she screamed for her husband. Why didn't this member of SWAT do his job and announce himself at this point and alert his lieutenant that there was a wife and child in the home and that Jose wasn't by himself? Oh wait maybe that's because the lieutenant wasn't there yet. They let an innocent man lie there dying in front of his wife and 4 yr old son. This whole raid was not planned thoroughly. So no the PCSD did not do their job right.... I think these SWAT agents got trigger happy once they saw him with a gun and just opened fire."
"tumble" writes: "It was all unfortunate timing. Jose was asleep. Jose, I believe knew nothing of SWAT. Wrong timing, his wife woke him up. He thought 'SOMEONE' was breaking in, Marine was going to take care of it. Problem Jose died before he know it was SWAT. If only his wife would have hid & not woke him up, different outcome. Timing. Wrong timing."
Daniel Armenta writes (via Facebook): "Sounds like SWAT was doing their job once again."
Lori Critser Weaver writes (via Facebook): "It's hard to disprove the video. I'm glad they taped it and release it. It shows that they having nothing to hide. I don't think they were perfect but there is never a perfect scenario. They try to prepare for everything but you never know what a person will do. I pray for his son."
Obviously, there are strong feelings on all sides. In a situation such as this, those in authority have a duty to provide the facts necessary to inform the public debate. With Thursday's release of information, investigators took a huge step in the right direction. A good next step would be for Sheriff Clarence Dupnik, as the top elected law enforcement official in the county, to step forward and discuss his assessment of what happened.
We have posted the full report from the Sheriff's Department on our website, it has been broken up into 3 parts. They are available in the related links portion of this story. Note: these are large files and may take some time to download/open.