Fatal SWAT raid spawns lawsuit
The victim's widow says her husband did not know who was breaking in
The widow of U.S. Marine Jose Guarena has filed suit over a raid that led to the death of her husband. Video by kgun9.comvideo
In May's fatal raid less than 30 seconds transpired between the first knock and the last shot
Jose Guerena was a former U.S. Marine
Vanessa Guerena told KGUN9 News she and her husband did not know who was breaking in
SWAT attorney Mike Storie says officers acted properly. A county investigation later exonerated them.
TUCSON (KGUN9-TV) - The widow of a former U.S. Marine killed earlier this year in a SWAT raid has now filed suit against Pima County and the officers who shot her husband.
In last May's incident, five SWAT officers serving a search warrant knocked on the door of Jose Guerena's Tucson home. The official video of the raid shows that within seconds of knocking, the officers broke down the door and shot Guerena to death. Investigators said that when the officers breached the door, they saw Guerena standing inside armed with an assault rifle, and that he began swinging the gun in their direction. Initially investigators said Guerena fired first, but later corrected that and said Guerena never got off a shot. In all, officers fired 71 rounds at Guerena, hitting him more than 20 times.
After the raid, Guerena's widow told KGUN9 News that she and her husband did not know who was breaking into her home. “I saw this guy pointing me at the window, so I got scared," she said in May. "I got, like, 'Please don't shoot, I have a baby...." I yelled 'Jose! Jose! Wake up!'"
The claim that the Guerenas did not know that the armed men storming into their home were law enforcement officers forms the basis of Guerena's lawsuit. “His wife thought there was a home invasion going on," attorney Christopher Scileppi told the media in a Tuesday press conference. "He had taken his gun in defense of his home and had he been properly notified about what is going on outside it wouldn't have happened. He would have answered the door."
Mike Storie, the attorney representing the SWAT team said, rejects that statement. "It’s silly," Storie told KGUN9 News. "You know all his comments are silly. This is not the way you apprehend or approach dangerous people, to announce hey, this is what we're here for. It would give bad guys time to get rid of evidence."
Storie has said that the team gave sufficient notice by knocking on the door and identifying themselves verbally before entering. The raid video showed that less than 30 seconds elapsed between the first knock and the last shot.
The lawsuit names the Pima County Regional SWAT team and all parties involved including those officers from Marana, Oro Valley and Sahuarita. The Guerena family and their attorney call officers negligent for how they announced themselves and then proceeded into the home to execute the warrant.
Storie is confident the Guerena family will not prevail. “I don't think it will ever go to trial but if it does I think it would be a great opportunity for these officers to finally speak for themselves and the public could hear exactly what they did and why they did it,” he said.
The Guerena family sent out a letter of intent 60 days before filing this lawsuit. In it, they asked the SWAT team and all parties to pay damages totaling to $20 million. In the lawsuit, the Guerena does not specify a monetary amount of damages sought. Instead, the lawsuit says the plaintiffs will ask a jury to find a fair and reasonable amount.
An investigation by the office of County Attorney Barbara LaWall earlier this year cleared the officers of any wrongdoing.
To date, the Pima County Sheriff's office has announced no arrests in connection with the drug investigation that led to the search warrants served on Guerena and others day that morning in May. Officers did find weapons in the Guerena home, but turned up no drugs or any other illegal items.