How weak is the evidence tying slain Iraq war veteran Jose Guerena to the drug ring and/or home invasion gang whose existence has been asserted (though not alleged – no arrests have been made) by the Pima County, Arizona Sheriff?
The investigation that lead [sic] to the service of the search warrants on May 5 is a complicated one involving multiple people suspected of very serious crimes. Sometimes, law enforcement agencies must choose between the desire of the public to quickly know details, and the very real threat to innocent lives if those details are released prematurely. Sheriff Dupnik has made it a departmental policy to be open and forthcoming with information released to the news media. When the decision is made to withhold information, as it has been in this case, there is a legitimate reason for that decision. The day the search warrant was served, we reported to the media that Mr. Guerena fired at SWAT officers. This is what was understood at that time. After a more detailed investigation, we learned that he pointed his assault rifle at SWAT officers, however, the safety was on and he could not fire. This is a clear example of erroneous information being provided without careful investigation. Rather than risking the release of further information, it is imperative that we complete all aspects of this investigation.
Complicating matters is the fact that multiple agencies were involved in this incident. The criminal investigation must be completed, in addition to the investigation by the County Attorney's office, prior to any administrative review of the actions of the officers involved in the shooting. By mutual agreement, that administrative review will include officials from the Pima County Sheriff's Department, the Marana Police Department, the Oro Valley Police Department and the Sahuarita Police Department. Each of these agencies had officers involved in the shooting as members of the Pima Regional SWAT Team.
Since the Sheriff's Department has had such a long-standing practice of open and timely communication with members of the news media, it is understandable that questions are asked about when more information will become available. However, it is unacceptable and irresponsible to couch those questions with implications of secrecy and a cover-up, not to mention questioning the legality of actions that could not have been taken without the approval of an impartial judge. As a law enforcement professional with decades of experience, Sheriff Dupnik will make the decision to release the information when the investigation is completed, the danger to innocent lives has been mitigated, and all agencies involved have been given the opportunity to review the actions of their personnel.
Deputy Jason S. Ogan
Public Information Officer
Pima County Sheriff's Department
The self-exculpation on display in the first paragraph, blamethrowing in the second, and arrogance in the third don't really need any commentary.
As I noted the other day, Sheriff Clarence Dupnik's Department is not the only source attempting to discredit Guerena, who was shot 60 times by a SWAT team shortly after 9am May 5, then left to die as police for more than an hour refused to allow paramedics to work on him. According to Michael Storie, attorney for the five shooters, a search of Guerena's residence turned up firearms, body armor, a portion of a "law enforcement uniform," and a picture of Jesús Malverde.
More about Malverde in a moment. Storie's claim differs from the search results reported in a televised interview Pima County Sheriff's Department spokesman Lt. Michael O'Connor gave to KGUN days after the killing. O'Connor used the phrase "may have been" rather than "was" in reference to material supposedly found in some of the four residences raided on May 5. O'Connor's list included: "drug ledgers, narcotics paraphernalia, any other connecting material between the residences, in addition to a large sum of money – somewhat larger than what you would normally expect to have in anyone's home"
However, O'Connor conceded that these things had been found at homes other than Guerena's. In Guerena's residence, he claimed only that police had found "connecting material to the drug conspiracy."
Keep in mind that this televised interview occurred about a week after the raid, and concerned only the material found during the service of a search warrant. It's not about the circumstances of Guerena's death. There might legitimately be confusion over the play-by-play in a fatal military-style engagement during which one side – consisting of five armed men – discharged 71 rounds, while the other side – consisting of one man with a safety-locked weapon, one unarmed woman and one unarmed four-year-old child – discharged zero rounds. But there is no reason, and certainly no excuse, for confusion about what was found in Guerena's home. Reconciling O'Connor's claims with Storie's suggests the only item potentially linking the Marine veteran to a drug conspiracy was the picture of Jesús Malverde.
Jesús Malverde, a probably mythical Robin Hood figure who is said to have died at the hands of Porfirio Diaz's dictatorship in 1909, is the subject of a cult centered in Sinaloa, Mexico. Malverde tchotchkes can be found throughout Mexico and the Southwestern United States.
While both English and Spanish media associate the Jesús Malverde cult with narcotraficantes, Malverde's powers of intercession extend far beyond the drug trade. With judicious use of Our Fathers and Hail Marys, the official prayer to the non-church-approved Malverde is said to be effective for immigrants and people who have been ripped off. There's even a story of supernatural malfunctions of Caterpillar machinery during an attempt to knock down a chapel consecrated to the popular bandit, though Caterpillar equipment has performed up to specs against Malverde-fortified locations in Kelseyville, California and the lovely but gang-troubled Glassell Park neighborhood of Los Angeles.
Maria Alicia Pulido Sanchez, a Mexico City acolyte, told AP in 2007 that she built the capital's first public shrine to Malverde after her son recovered quickly from injuries sustained in a December 2005 car crash. That Guerena had a picture of Jesús Malverde tells us two things: He had a family to worry about and he shared the belief of most Americans that a supernatural being or beings can influence earthly circumstances.