Sheriff defends delay in SWAT info

Clamor for information after raid led to erroneous report, department says
2011-05-19T00:00:00Z 2013-09-17T16:03:26Z Sheriff defends delay in SWAT infoBy Fernanda Echavarri Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star

The Pima County Sheriff's Department issued a statement Wednesday trying to explain its policy regarding the delay in the release of information about the May 5, SWAT raid in which a Tucson man was killed.

The statement said "the public has received misinformation," as a result of "the need for information" surrounding the shooting that left 26-year-old Jose Guerena dead inside his home.

Initial statements and details about the shooting reported by the Star came from the Sheriff's Department's based on two media releases issued on May 5, and 9.

"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," the statement released Wednesday said.

Additional information reported in the Star came from 911 tapes released by Drexel Heights Fire Department Friday in response to a public records request, as well as interviews with Guerena's wife, who was in the house with the couple's 4-year-old son during the incident and is a witness.

Sheriff Clarence Dupnik, through a department spokesman Tuesday morning, declined an interview request. He also instructed members of the department not to release more information about the shooting, said Deputy Jason Ogan, a department spokesman.

"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," the department's statement Wednesday read.

Two weeks after the shooting, the department has yet to disclose exactly what they seized from the Guerena home. Court documents that show what officers were searching for and what was seized as evidence have been sealed.

Deputies have cited the ongoing investigation as the reason for not releasing details on the investigation.

"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," the statement said. Officers from Marana, Oro Valley and Sahuarita police departments were also involved in the shooting as part of the Pima County Regional SWAT team.

Five members of the SWAT team fired 71 shots at Guerena while serving a search warrant at the family's home in the 7100 block of South Redwater Drive, Lt. Michael O'Connor said in a news conference last week. Guerena was shot 60 times, doctors told the family.

The former Marine was sleeping about 9:30 a.m. after working the graveyard shift at Asarco's Mission Mine when his wife woke him, saying she heard noises outside and saw a man was at their window. Guerena told his wife to hide in a closet with their 4-year-old son, his wife said. He grabbed an AR-15 rifle and moments later was slumped in the kitchen, mortally wounded from a hail of gunfire.

Guerena did not fire a shot and his gun had the safety on, deputies said, after initially saying he had fired on the SWAT officers.

Local attorney Michael Storie is representing the officers involved in the SWAT shooting and has called a news conference today regarding the shooting.

The Star has made records requests.

On Wednesday, an attorney for the Star filed a public-records request with the Sheriff's Department and the Clerk of the Superior Court on behalf of the newspaper. The request - in preparation for a lawsuit - asks that they produce records related to the case.

 

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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