Drug War

Sheriffs: Slain Jose Guerena Linked to "Home-Invasion Crew"

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Maybe they were arresting him for not cutting his lawn?

A very different version of the May 5 killing of Marine Iraq veteran Jose Guerena has emerged from the Pima County, Arizona Sheriff's Department and a lawyer for the five SWAT team members who shot Guerena 60 times. 

The Arizona Daily Star's Fernanda Echávarri reports that the sheriff's department has complained of media reports that "spread misinformation and encouraged speculation." However, the department did not provide any additional information about the shooting, which took place during a mid-morning raid on Guerena's home, where he was apparently asleep with his wife and four-year-old child. Nor did the sheriff offer to unseal the search warrant and court documents specifying what police were looking for in the home and what they seized. 

But Michael Storie, the attorney for the SWAT officers, said the raid turned up rifles, hand guns, body armor and a piece of a "law enforcement uniform" inside Guerena's house. (Guerena family attorney Christopher Scileppi, tells Echávarri none of the seized items were illegal.) From the Daily Star

"Everything they think they're going to find in there they find," said Storie in a news conference called a day after the Sheriff's Department complained media reports on the incident spread misinformation and encouraged speculation about events surrounding the shooting… 

All statements made by Storie on Thursday morning came from the five SWAT officers he is representing, he said.

The five officers had "no choice but to shoot" when they breached the front door of the house in the 7100 block of South Redwater Drive and saw Guerena holding a rifle, Storie said.

The house was targeted as part of an investigation into home invasions and drug rip offs. The Guerena house was among homes that "were identified as locations where these activities were being carried out from."

Whole article. Storie has revived the detail that Guerena shouted "I've got something for you, I've got something for you guys" before he was shot (which Guerena's widow denies). He says that Guerena's name was not in any of the search documents, and uses some intriguing phrasing to tell Echávarri that "if SWAT members had been let in to the home, those inside 'probably they wouldn't have been arrested.'" 

Storie also speculates that police officers casing Guerena's house a few days before the shooting were spied on by parties unknown, and he says a portrait of Jesus Malverde, "believed to be a 'narco saint'" was found under Guerena's bed.

It was either Patrick Henry or Rooster Cogburn who observed that states and railroads will lie to you quicker than a man will. While the sheriff has been quiet about the case's details (including the dispatcher's apparent confusion over the raid during Vanessa Guerena's 911 call), Storie's claims are almost perfect examples of lawyerly pettifogging. Having a picture of a "narco saint" is evidence of nothing; in 1975, my wife's grandmother was killed by one Lebanese militia because while raiding her home they found a magazine published by a rival militia. Finding a uniform in a private residence was one of the KGB's favorite pieces of flimflammery when they wanted to arrest somebody. Possession of firearms is, for the time being, legal in the United States, and the fact that Guerena had an AR-15 has been part of this narrative since the beginning. 

It's certainly important to hear the authorities' side of this misadventure, which has resulted in no arrests. It's also important to avoid misinformation and wild speculation. But the solution to that problem is for the authorities to release the warrants and court records and to put out a coherent narrative that doesn't keep changing. They've had plenty of time to do that in the two weeks since Jose Guerena was killed.