Jose Guerena shooting

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Jose Guerena
Jose Manuel Guerena Ortiz[1]

(1984-11-23)November 23, 1984
DiedMay 5, 2011(2011-05-05) (aged 26)
Cause of deathGunfire
Body discoveredMay 5, 2011

Jose Guerena was a U.S. Marine veteran who served in the Iraq War and who was killed in his Tucson, Arizona home on May 5, 2011 by the Pima County Sheriff's Department SWAT team. Deputies were executing a warrant to search Guerena's home while investigating a case involving marijuana being smuggled into the U.S. from Mexico.

The shooting garnered national attention and generated significant debate on the subject of the militarization of police in conjunction with the following facts in the case: After the shooting, no evidence of illegal activity nor any illegal items were found at Guerena's residence; Guerena's wife and 4-year-old child were hiding within the home from whom they thought were intruders when deputies opened fire with a salvo of 71 rounds; Guerena's weapon was found with its safety still engaged; Guerena's prior military service and lack of any criminal record; Inconsistencies in statements given by officials describing what had transpired at the scene.[2][3][4][5][6][7][8]

In September 2013, the four police agencies involved agreed to pay Guerena's wife and children $3.4 million as a settlement, without admitting wrongdoing in their killing of Guerena.[9]

Reasons for search[edit]

Jose Guerena shooting
LocationTucson, Arizona
DateMay 5, 2011 (2011-05-05)
9:30 am (MST)
Attack type
VictimJose Guerena
PerpetratorsPima County Sheriff's Department SWAT deputies

The County police initially said the raid was a search for marijuana. After the attack, Pima County released documents suggesting Guerena's brother, Alejandro, was engaged in criminal activity. Days later, they said it was part of an investigation into a series of home invasions. Another home search that same morning revealed marijuana, $94,000, and several weapons. According to police reports, Alejandro Guerena pulled up to the house in a pick-up truck while the raid was going on, and police found a pistol in his truck, which might have led to a heavier firearm presence when raiding Jose's home.[4]


Asleep after returning from a 12-hour overnight shift at the ASARCO Mission mine, Guerena was awakened about 9:30 a.m. by his wife who heard noises outside their house, later identified as flash/bang grenades deployed by police in the back yard as a diversion.[10] He instructed his wife and 4-year-old son to hide inside a closet while he grabbed his AR-15 rifle and crouched down preparing to defend himself from the unidentified people breaking into his home. The Sheriff's Department initially claimed that Guerena had fired on officers; at least three of the SWAT members including the team commander reported in their post-operation debriefings that they had observed muzzle flashes aimed at them from inside the house.[11] After an examination of Guerena’s rifle however, it was determined that the rifle had not been fired; the safety was still engaged. Other officers claimed they saw splinters from the doorjamb being hit by bullets; the shots that caused this were determined to come from other members of the SWAT team themselves.[12] "There were five officers at the door beginning to make entry into this home, when they engaged this individual that they believed was actually firing at them."[13] Other versions of this story claim that officers started shooting after Guerena pointed the gun at them, though under questioning they were initially unsure whether he had actually moved to target them.[11] A video of the raid shows roughly 38 seconds expired from the time the police briefly sounded a siren upon pulling into Guerena's driveway until they shot him.[14][5] At this point the five person team fired at least 71 rounds at Guerena in less than seven seconds, who died after being hit 22 times.[15][16]

Guerena's wife called 911 to request medical assistance for her husband shortly after the shooting. Paramedics, however, were instructed to hold back. Guerena was denied attention, for about one hour, until the team declared the "area secured". Ambulance crews were then notified they were no longer needed, one hour and fourteen minutes after Guerena's wife's call to 911.[15][17] An official autopsy report was released on 6 June. It confirmed that Guerena had been shot 22 times, including one grazing shot to the head. No drugs were found in his system. The medical examiner expressed doubts that medics could have saved Guerena, even if they had reached him quickly. The report also notes that the body showed "no evidence of medical intervention".[18]

The former U.S. Army Staff Sergeant Anthony Schiessl was asked to review a video from the raid. Schiessl has seven years of experience as an Army Combat Engineer, including three deployments to Iraq. Schiessl said the raid was "amateur, undisciplined, unrehearsed and ineffective." He was then asked if Guerena could have known they were cops raiding the house, he replied "Not plausible at all. The short siren burst could have been a police car passing. The flash bang grenades being used next door would have added to the confusion. When looking out a sunlit doorway from a dark hallway, it is difficult to see anything but a silhouette. Add in several people yelling, and it would be extremely difficult to comprehend what is happening if you're woken from sleep."[4]: 1

Officers did not find any evidence related to drug trafficking at Guerena's residence. Police did report that they took one AR-15, one .38 handgun, body armor, and a US Border Patrol cap from the Guerena house after killing him. All these items are legal to own.[15][19][20][6] Three other houses and a storage unit rented by his relatives were searched as part of the same investigation, in which police discovered weapons, a bag of marijuana, a stolen vehicle, and accounting ledgers allegedly related to marijuana trafficking operations.[16]


A computer search revealed Guerena had no history of criminal convictions.[12] Guerena had been arrested in January 2009 after being involved in a traffic stop with two other individuals where a gun and a small amount of marijuana were found, but was not charged.[21][22] In the affidavit filed to support the search warrant, Pima Detective Alex Tisch had claimed that Guerena had "five felony arrests involving drugs" but no convictions.[23]

Guerena's widow states that she had no knowledge that the man she saw pointing a gun at her through the window was a police officer, and thought that he was part of a home invasion group. She has stated that two members of her sister-in-law's family were killed previously in a home invasion.[24] As of May 2011, that case, in which Cynthia and Manny Orozco were killed and their 2-year-old daughter seriously injured, remains unsolved.[25]

Upon request of Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik, a judge sealed the search warrants as well as the documents showing what items were seized from the home. Dupnik stated this was to protect the identity of a confidential informant and criticized the press for wanting to know the details of the case.[12][26] On June 2, 2011 the Pima County Superior Court released the warrants and other information related to the raid, but redacted some material to protect the identity of a confidential informant.[21]

Days after the shooting, the family retained Tucson attorney Christopher Scileppi.[27] Scileppi was critical of the investigation leading up to the requesting of a search warrant, claiming that probable cause did not exist as to Jose Guerena.[28] Scileppi was also critical of the militarization of law enforcement and claimed that they were negligent in executing the warrant.[29]

Attorney Michael Storie, the Pima County Deputy Sheriff's Association's in-house counsel represented the officers involved in a number of press conferences defending their actions.[30] On June 13, the Pima County Attorney's Office, under County Attorney Barbara LaWall, released the results of their review of the shooting, concluding that "under the circumstances, and based upon our review of all the available evidence, we have concluded that the use of deadly forces by the SWAT Team members was reasonable and justified under the law. Accordingly, the Pima County Attorney's Office finds no basis to prosecute."[31][32]

Pima County Republican Party chairman Brian Miller questioned the killing of Guerena, and the SWAT policies that led to it, as did former Graham County Sheriff Richard Mack, who once served with Dupnik.[33] The Pima County GOP, upset that Brian Miller rushed to criticize the shooting, and in light of the facts that were later revealed to clear the officers of wrongdoing, removed Brian Miller from his chairmanship.[34]

Ten months after the raids and the killing, on March 2, 2012, Guerena's two brothers Alejandro Guerena, 28, and Gerardo Guerena, 24; along with Alejandro's wife, Pauline Guerena, his sister-in-law, Denise Ruiz, and his father-in-law, Jose Celaya were indicted, and it was alleged that they imported and sold at least $4.9 million worth of marijuana between 2005 and the time of the fatal raid. Alejandro Guerena, the alleged leader of the smuggling operation, was arrested in Mexico, returned to Pima County, and on June 25, 2013, was sentenced to 105 days in jail plus five years of probation after pleading guilty to attempted possession of marijuana for sale and conspiracy to commit money laundering.[35] Pauline Guerena plead guilty to one count of attempted money laundering in the second degree, and was sentenced to four years probation.[9][36] Denise Ruiz pleaded guilty to facilitation of possession of marijuana for sale and received an identical sentence to Alejandro.[9][35] There is still an outstanding warrant for Gerardo Guerena. Celaya posted a $50,000 bond.[37]


On August 12, 2011 it was announced that the family of Jose Guerena filed an intention to sue Pima County Sheriff Dupnik, and all the officers who shot Guerena or were part of the raid, offering to settle for $20 million. The lawsuit cites that the officers acted with negligence when they failed to announce themselves and put Guerena's wife and son in danger, and willingly deprived Guerena of medical attention after he was shot, leading to his death, and violated his civil rights. Christopher Scileppi and Pat Broom, Tucson attorneys, were hired to represent the family.[24][38] Scileppi says the lawsuit is meant to hold those accountable for Guerena's death and send a message to officers who have unlawfully killed citizens, as well as to clear Jose Guerena's name. The lawyer for the officers, however, said[citation needed] that the lawsuit is only to cause more "hysteria" and the amount is excessive since the officers had already been cleared of wrongdoing, while also admitting that, had officers been peacefully allowed into the home, everyone inside "probably ... wouldn't have been arrested."[39]

Initially the parties involved in killing Guerena did not settle, so the family proceeded to file a lawsuit. The suit named Pima County, Marana, Sahuarita, Oro Valley, and all SWAT operators involved in the killing. The suit covers claims of negligence in the procurement of the search warrant, in the shooting, and in the failure to provide medical attention.[40][41]

In September 2013, Pima County, the towns of Sahuarita, Marana, and Oro Valley, approved a combined settlement of $3.4 million to Guerena's widow, with Pima County contributing $2.35 million, Sahuarita, $260,000, Marana, $720,000, and Oro Valley, $100,000. The settlements required approval from each jurisdictions board, with only one board member from Pima county dissenting.[9] Pima County officials claim that the settlement does not imply wrongdoing.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Cesar Barron (12 May 2011). "Ex-Marine shot by SWAT has local roots". Nogales International. Archived from the original on 2017-05-09. Retrieved 8 May 2017.
  2. ^ The facts mentioned here are referenced in the relevant sections of the article below. The references which follow this one are to show the NATIONAL news coverage this event received.
  3. ^ Axe, David (30 May 2011). "Drug Raid Turns Ugly as SWAT guns down Marine vet". Archived from the original on 2011-06-01.

    One thing is clear. With military-grade vehicles, armor, assault weapons and robots, the raid on Guerena's home was all but indistinguishable from the kind of house-clearing operations U.S. forces perform every day in Iraq and Afghanistan. Guerena survived two tours in the desert only to perish in a military-style action in his own home.

  4. ^ a b c Balko, Radley (17 August 2011). "Three Months After Pima County SWAT Team Kills Jose Guerena: No Arrests, No Apologies". Huffington Post. Archived from the original on 2011-12-24. Retrieved 9 May 2017.
  5. ^ a b Balko, Radley (26 September 2013). "Family Of Jose Guerena, Former Marine Killed By SWAT Team, To Receive $3.4 Million". Huffington Post. Archived from the original on 2013-09-30. Retrieved 11 May 2017.
  6. ^ a b Chuck Conder (27 May 2011). "Marine Never Fired On SWAT Officers Who Fatally Shot Him". CNN. Archived from the original on 2011-09-17.
  7. ^ Ellen Tumposky (27 May 2011). "Drug SWAT Team That Gunned Down Ex-Marine Found No Drugs". ABC News. Archived from the original on 2011-05-28.

    But protests in the community continue. Guerena's widow will join members of the Oathkeepers, a group of veterans and law-enforcement officials, for a Memorial Day rally Monday at the Guerena home . The Oathkeepers say on their website that they are determined "to take a stand against the egregious policy of using SWAT teams to serve search warrants on veterans and gun owners with no violent criminal history.

  8. ^ Hardy, David (2017-10-21). "When local cops drive tanks: The deadly consequences of militarizing Mayberry". Salon. Archived from the original on 2017-11-01. Retrieved 2020-06-09.
  9. ^ a b c d Joe Ferguson (20 September 2013). "$3.4M settlement in deadly 2011 SWAT raid near Tucson". Arizona Daily Star. Archived from the original on 2013-09-24. Retrieved 11 May 2017.
  10. ^ Forest Carr (9 May 2011). "23 Seconds: Documents Show The May 5 SWAT Raid Moved Very Fast". KGUN9, ABC. Archived from the original on 1 October 2011.
  11. ^ a b Craig Smith (4 June 2011). "SWAT Team Believed Guerena Had Opened Fire". KGUN, ABC Tucson. Archived from the original on 2011-06-10.
  12. ^ a b c Fernanda Echavarri (11 May 2011). "SWAT team fired 71 shots in raid". Arizona Daily Star. Archived from the original on 2011-05-14. Retrieved 11 May 2017.
  13. ^ Forrest Carr (22 May 2011). "Raw video: Sheriff's Office interview on fatal SWAT raid". KGUN9. Archived from the original on 2011-05-29. Retrieved 28 May 2011.
  14. ^ "Jose Guerena SWAT Raid Video From Helmet Cam". YouTube. 2011-05-26. Archived from the original on 2011-06-01. Retrieved 2018-05-18.
  15. ^ a b c Axe, David (30 May 2011). "Drug Raid Turns Ugly as SWAT guns down Marine vet". Archived from the original on 2011-06-01.
  16. ^ a b Fernanda Echavarri (1 Jun 2011). "Dupnik: Raid stemmed from 20-month probe". Arizona Daily Star. Archived from the original on 2011-06-04. Retrieved 16 May 2017.
  17. ^ Craig Smith (20 May 2011). "911 tapes back up SWAT account of fatal raid". KGUN9. Archived from the original on 2011-05-25. Retrieved 28 May 2011.
  18. ^ Forrest Carr and Jennifer Waddell (6 June 2011). "SWAT Raid Autopsy: Guerena Died Quickly From Massive Blood Loss". KGUN, ABC. Archived from the original on 2011-06-10.
  19. ^ Radley Balko (25 May 2011). "Jose Guerena Killed: Arizona Cops Shoot Former Marine In Botched Pot Raid". Huffington Post. Archived from the original on 2011-08-21.
  20. ^ Ellen Tumposky (27 May 2011). "Drug SWAT Team That Gunned Down Ex-Marine Found No Drugs". ABC News. Archived from the original on 2011-05-28.
  21. ^ a b Craig Smith (2 Jun 2011). "Warrant request says Guerena in drug ring". kGUN9. Archived from the original on 2011-06-11. Retrieved 4 June 2011.
  22. ^ Craig Smith (1 June 2011). "Guerena Had 2009 Arrest But No Formal Charges". KGUN9, ABC. Archived from the original on 2011-06-04.
  23. ^ Alex Tisch (May 2011). "Affidavit In Support Of Search Warrant" (PDF). Pima County Sheriff's Dept. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2011-06-26.
  24. ^ a b Ellen Tumposky (20 May 2011). "Tucson SWAT Team Defends Shooting Iraq Vet 60 Times". ABC News. Archived from the original on 2011-05-21. Retrieved 3 March 2015.
  25. ^ Brian J. Pederson, Jamar Younger (31 March 2010). "Slaying of couple leaves relatives perplexed". Arizona Daily Star. Archived from the original on 2010-04-03. Retrieved 28 May 2011.{{cite news}}: CS1 maint: uses authors parameter (link)
  26. ^ Forest Carr (20 May 2011). "Viewers' Voice: Sheriff chides media, KGUN9 News responds". KGUN9. Archived from the original on 2011-05-29. Retrieved 28 May 2011.
  27. ^ Barbara Grijalva (25 May 2011). "Both Sides in SWAT Shooting Case Come Out Swinging". KOLD News 13. Archived from the original on 2017-05-16.
  28. ^ "Guerena attorney addresses released SWAT documents". AZFamily Frankly Media ktvk. 17 June 2011. Archived from the original on 2017-05-16. Retrieved 10 May 2017.
  29. ^ "Widow sues over deadly Tucson-area SWAT raid". 2 November 2011. Archived from the original on 2017-04-14. Retrieved 2017-09-14.
  30. ^ Bud Foster (8 Jun 2011). "SWAT attorney: 71 shots in 7 seconds 'standard operation'". Archived from the original on 2013-09-21. Retrieved 20 September 2013.
  31. ^ Michael Truelsen (14 June 2011). "SWAT Shooting Of Guerena Ruled 'Reasonable And Justified'". KOLD, CBS Tucson. Archived from the original on 2011-06-19.
  32. ^ Fernanda Echavarri (13 June 2011). "Officers In Tucson SWAT Shooting Of Ex-Marine Cleared Of Wrongdoing". Arizona Daily Star. Archived from the original on 2011-06-17.
  33. ^ Claire Doan (2011-06-02). "SWAT raid draws criticism of Sheriff Dupnik". Archived from the original on 2011-06-12. Retrieved 2011-06-14.
  34. ^ Classen, Carolyn. "Pima County GOP removes Brian Miller". Archived from the original on 21 September 2013. Retrieved 20 September 2013.

    [from Brian Miller's email]: "My concern is with the policies themselves, and whether or not there are better ways for law enforcement, not only here in Pima County but throughout the United States, to conduct themselves so as to minimize risk to the officers, suspects and innocent civilians who may be caught up in police actions.

  35. ^ a b Patrick McNamara (26 Jun 2013). "Man gets probation, jail for his role in family drug outfit". Arizona Daily Star. Archived from the original on 2016-03-05. Retrieved 16 Feb 2015.
  36. ^ Veronica Cruz (31 May 2013). "Woman in drug family admits money laundering". Arizona Daily Star. Archived from the original on 2016-03-05. Retrieved 16 Feb 2015.
  37. ^ Fernanda Echavarri (10 June 2012). "Family's Ties To Alleged Pot Ring Detailed". Arizona Daily Star. Retrieved 10 June 2012.
  38. ^ Fernanda Echavarri (19 May 2011). "Attorney: Tucson man killed by SWAT linked to home invasion case - Family's lawyer: Authorities trying to discredit man". Arizona Daily Star. Archived from the original on 2017-03-23. Retrieved 10 May 2017.
  39. ^ Echavarri, Fernanda (2011-05-20). "Attorney: SWAT raid found guns, body armor". Arizona Daily Star. Archived from the original on 2015-01-04. Retrieved 2017-12-04.

    If SWAT members had been let into the home, those inside "probably ... wouldn't have been arrested," Storie said.

  40. ^ Younger, Jamar (2011-11-02). "Widow sues over fatal SWAT raid". Arizona Daily Star. Archived from the original on 2011-12-08. Retrieved 2018-05-18.

    The lawsuit claims the detective who signed the warrant was negligent by misrepresenting facts that were crucial to showing there was probable cause for the raid. It also claims the SWAT team was negligent in the planning and execution of the raid, and when they fired at Guerena's home.

  41. ^ "14 defendants named in Guerena lawsuit". 2011-11-01. Archived from the original on 2011-11-08.

External links[edit]