Sheriff’s Dept. defends SWAT shooting silence

Claim of public 'misinformation and emotionally-charged speculation'
2011-05-18T11:45:00Z 2011-05-18T23:52:27Z Sheriff’s Dept. defends SWAT shooting silenceFernanda Echavarri, Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star

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

Here is an unedited copy of today's statement:

Officer Involved Shooting - Update

May 18, 2011

"As a result of the need for information surrounding the shooting of Jose Guerena by members of the Pima Regional SWAT Team, the public has received misinformation and emotionally-charged speculation.

The investigation that lead 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

Here is today's news article about the shooting:

Dupnik won't release more info about SWAT shooting of Tucson man

The Pima County Sheriff's Department will release no more information about the circumstances surrounding the killing of Jose Guerena during the serving of a search warrant by the department's SWAT officers May 5 at his home.

Two weeks after the shooting the department has yet to disclose exactly what they were searching for in the Guerena home as well as three other residences in the area that were subjects of a drug investigation. Court documents that show what officers were searching for in the case have been sealed and what was seized as evidence has also been sealed.

Sheriff Clarence Dupnik, through a department spokesman Tuesday morning, declined an interview request.

No one from the department will comment about the case until the investigation is complete, Deputy Jason Ogan said Tuesday. There is no timeframe for when the investigation will be over, he said.

On May 5, five members of the SWAT team fired 71 shots at Guerena while serving a search warrant at the 7100 block of South Redwater Drive. He was shot 60 times.

The 26-year-old former Marine was sleeping at 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.

 

 

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