Complex drug probe triggered SWAT raid

2011-05-27T14:00:00Z 2013-09-17T16:03:27Z Complex drug probe triggered SWAT raidBy Fernanda Echavarri Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
May 27, 2011 2:00 pm  • 

The man shot and killed by SWAT officers, as well as his brother and another man, were listed as suspects in a complex drug investigation being conducted by the Sheriff's Department, according to documents released Thursday.

That investigation was the reason heavily armed SWAT officers went to Jose Guerena's house to serve a search warrant that ended in his fatal shooting May 5, reports show.

More than 500 pages of officers' statements, evidence lists and witness interviews were released by the Pima County Sheriff's Department. Also released were audiotapes from the shooting scene, radio transmissions and other communications made by law enforcement personnel during the serving of search warrants on four homes on the southwest side.

A short video showing Pima County Regional SWAT team members serving the warrant was also released. The written documents detail what sheriff's personnel did during the incident.

The short video recording shows that deputies approaching Jose Guerena's home turned the sirens on for a few seconds as they approached. It also shows them announcing themselves, then knocking down the front door and firing their guns.

Audiotapes reveal that no SWAT officers entered Guerena's house. Law enforcement officers went into his home only after a robot was sent in and it was determined about an hour after the shooting that Guerena, a former Marine, was dead.

The reports state Jose Guerena; his brother, Alejandro; and Jose Celaya were named as suspects in briefings given to officers before the search warrants were served. Many of the officers' reports refer to the sheriff's long-term drug investigation as the reason for the search warrants.

Reports show about $100,000 in cash, marijuana and firearms were seized that morning from the four homes that were searched.

Items found in Jose Guerena's house included: a Colt .38-caliber handgun, paperwork, tax returns, insurance papers, bank statements and a bank card, reports showed.

Another report said detectives found body armor in a hallway closet and a U.S. Border Patrol hat in the garage.

Some search warrant documents remained sealed and were not released Thursday.

Dramatic video

In the video released by the Sheriff's Department, about five SWAT team members are seen jumping out of the vehicle with shields, helmets and bulletproof vests, all marked "POLICE" across the front and back. The sirens stop and the officers begin shouting "Police, search warrant, open the door," alternating with the same command in Spanish three times before they break down the front door of Guerena's house.

A couple of seconds after the door is opened, one officers says, "Hit him," and all the officers begin shooting from the doorway.

One of the officers falls down a couple of seconds after they open fire, and then all SWAT team members back away from the door, the video shows.

The Sheriff's Department said previously that Guerena pointed an AR-15 rifle at officers as they entered the home. It was determined that Guerena did not fire at officers.

At 9:34 a.m., the audiotapes reveal that SWAT officers began what would be about 30 minutes of repeating in English and Spanish: "It's the Pima County Sheriff's Department SWAT team. Anyone inside the house, come out with your hands up, no weapons in your hands."

Michael Storie, an attorney representing the five SWAT officers who shot at Guerena, said last week that all those officers were separated immediately after the shooting so they could be interviewed and provide objective statements of what happened. The audiotapes reveal that after about 45 minutes, all the SWAT officers are together. They can be heard talking about what happened, according to tape recordings made at the scene.

"That was um, like a movie, the way he jumped out," said the SWAT team leader.

"Well, he waited, he waited and once Hector came up ..." said another SWAT member just before being interrupted by the SWAT leader who said, "What did he say?" Hector is the name of one of the SWAT officers.

Two other voices say they "couldn't hear anything" and that they didn't know if Jose Guerena said anything before the shooting began.

"He yelled something, 'I got something for you' or something," the SWAT leader told them, according to the audiotapes.

The Sheriff's Department said previously that Guerena said something as he pointed his gun at officers.

"I just started boom, boom, boom, boom," said another voice on the tape.

"Yeah, we were all out of ammo when we got back," the SWAT leader said.

While this conversation is going on outside, the robot was sent into the house to check on Jose Guerena, who was shot at least 60 times.

A SWAT deputy directed the robot into the home and observed Guerena lying face down in the kitchen area.

The deputy operating the robot used its arm to apply pressure to Guerena to see if he would respond.

He then used the robot to push down on Guerena's lower and middle back several times but received no response.

While outside, a SWAT member asked the team leader if they were going inside the house. The team leader can be heard on the tape saying no, and the team member said, "Why not? ... Might as well finish what I started."

The deputy operating the robot did not see Guerena's chest rising or falling, as if he were breathing, and said he was "Code 900" or dead, about 50 minutes into the audiotape.

One officer wrote in a report that in a briefing before the incident he was told there was an ongoing narcotics investigation and that suspects may be linked to a double homicide.

Other officers were briefed about a double slaying in Tucson in which a man and his wife were killed during a home invasion that was witnessed by the couple's young daughter.

According to a report, a detective interviewing Jose Guerena's younger brother, Jesus Gerardo Guerena, asked him about the slayings of Manuel and Cynthia Orozco. Jesus Guerena said he knew the couple because they were related to his brother Alejandro's wife.

According to Star archives, Manuel and Cynthia Orozco were killed during a home invasion in March 2010.

A second home

A second SWAT team served a search warrant at a nearby house in the 6200 block of Oklahoma Street at the same time as the shooting. Later that morning officers also served a warrant at two other houses all related to the same investigation, the reports show.

Detective John Mawhinney wrote in his report that he conducted a search of the residence in the 6200 block of West Oklahoma Street in connection with this case and found a large shoebox full of cash under a bed.

A later tally showed the box contained nearly $94,000. He also found a bag of marijuana in the stove and ammunition, his report stated.

Inside the home on Oklahoma, a report states, an AK-47 rifle was found. Guns and ballistic vests were found at several of the residences, the reports show.

Seven vehicles were also found at the house on Oklahoma. Several reports indicated drug dogs used in searches at the house alerted officers to the smell of narcotics on most of the vehicles there.

While investigators were searching the Oklahoma residence, a pickup truck pulled up to the house. A report states that Alejandro Guerena was driving the truck. He was detained.

The report states Alejandro Guerena told investigators there was a "pistola" in the truck. Detectives recovered a .45-caliber handgun from the vehicle.

WIFE INTERVIEWED

Also released were statements made after the shooting by Vanessa Guerena, Jose Guerena's wife.

She and the couple's young son were in the home at the time of the shooting.

She described having to talk to her 4-year-old son about his father after he asked what had happened to his dad. She told him he had been shot but would be OK.

"All I want to know, if he's alive," she told a detective.

The detective replied: "I'm sorry, he died."

"No! What were you guys thinking?" she said.

The detective told her the team was serving a search warrant and "never intended on shooting him. That was not the intention."

Vanessa Guerena said her husband was left alone for a long time after the shooting.

She said her son told her, "Mommy, I saw my daddy on the floor, with all this blood. What happened? Is he gonna be OK?' "

The Sheriff's Department would not comment on the reports and tapes.

Contact reporter Fernanda Echavarri at fechavarri@azstarnet.com or 573-4224.

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

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