Josh Brodesky: Guerena family deserves an answer

2011-05-22T00:00:00Z 2011-05-22T00:18:57Z Josh Brodesky: Guerena family deserves an answerBy Josh Brodesky Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
May 22, 2011 12:00 am  • 

Maybe, as it's been alleged, Jose Guerena was part of a home-invasion ring with family members, ripping and running with body armor and assault weapons, posing as law enforcement.

But all we know, more than two weeks after SWAT officers shot him 60 times, is that Guerena was a Marine who served in Iraq and had no criminal record. We know he worked the night shift at the Asarco Mission Mine, and he was a father and husband.

We know that what SWAT officers said they found in Guerena's home - guns, body armor, a piece of law enforcement clothing, a portrait of Jesus Malverde, "the narco saint," under his bed - might be suggestive of home invasions, but certainly are not illegal.

Could Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik have bungled the explanation for this shooting any worse? His department first said Guerena fired at the SWAT officers. Then it said he didn't. The officers now say he raised his gun with the safety on and pointed it at them. Since the correction, Dupnik has refused to comment on what went down.

"I have to do what I think is right to protect the case to ensure that it has the opportunity to progress where we think it should go," he told me Friday, explaining his silence.

Dupnik said he was withholding comment because his department is continuing with its criminal investigation into the alleged home-invasion ring. Meanwhile, the Pima County Attorney's Office is investigating the shooting. And a shooting board, made up of commanders from the various agencies involved with the SWAT incident, is also investigating. Dupnik said it wouldn't make any sense to talk to the public before talking to the shooting board.

Besides the wall of silence, court documents and the search warrant for the home have been sealed. The Star plans to sue for those records.

Dupnik said opening up those documents would put someone's life at risk. An informant? Presumably, but he wouldn't say.

"I don't know when they are going to be unsealed, if ever," he said. "Those are the real sensitive parts of why we are having difficulty with trying to put information out publicly - because we don't want to get somebody killed."

That would make sense, except Michael Storie, the attorney for the SWAT officers, gave a press conference Thursday to provide details of the May 5 shooting.

When I asked Dupnik if anything Storie said at that presser undermined the criminal investigation or other concerns, all he said was, "No."

So then why not at least release that information?

After all, Dupnik said he understands "there is a huge public interest fueled by the press" about a shooting where officers fired 71 rounds in seven seconds. And he said he understands that "we gave some bad information on a very critical issue."

But clearly he doesn't. Otherwise we wouldn't have Storie tap dancing for reporters, explaining how the shooting went down.

Among other things, Storie said Guerena raised his AR-15 rifle and said, "I have something for you. I have something for you guys."

Two of the officers thought they saw the rifle fire. Why? No one knows. Some of the hypothetical explanations Storie gave - The muzzle flash of their own guns reflected off the scope of his; their gunshots hit Guerena's gun, sending sparks flying - make no sense because they would have happened after the cops started shooting. Others, that officers saw a flash out of the corners of their eyes or in a mirror, seem possible but improbable.

At some point a SWAT officer holding a shield fell, and the other officers thought he had been shot. More shots were fired. Guerena died while his wife pleaded with 911 for medical help.

Storie - no surprise here - sees this as "a clear-cut case" on the shooting and on Guerena.

The guns, the law enforcement clothing, the portrait and the body armor make a nifty equation.

"Put it together, and when you have drug rip-offs that occasionally happen where people disguise themselves as law enforcement officers, it all adds up," he said.

Guerena's alleged gun threat left officers with "no choice" but to shoot.

"They are faced with a weapon pointed at them. What other choice do they have?"

When the dust settles, Dupnik said, "You will see that we are not hiding anything."

But he's already undermined that. A man was shot 60 times in his own home, and we still don't know why.

Guerena, SWAT and the community deserve more answers than this.

 

Contact columnist Josh Brodesky at 573-4242 or jbrodesky@azstarnet.com

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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