SWAT: We said, 'Open up' at least twice

2011-06-04T00:00:00Z 2013-09-17T16:03:27Z SWAT: We said, 'Open up' at least twiceBy Jamar Younger Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
June 04, 2011 12:00 am  • 

The SWAT officers who shot and killed a man while serving a search warrant last month gave at least two commands for someone to open the door before knocking it open, according to documents released Friday.

The officers told investigators that, upon opening the door, they saw a man appear in the hallway holding a rifle before they saw what they thought were muzzle flashes from his gun.

It was later determined Jose Guerena's rifle was on safety and he didn't fire at the officers.

The Pima County Sheriff's Department released hundreds of evidence photos and transcribed interviews with the SWAT officers who fired at Guerena during the raid on his home May 5.

The photos show the interior of Guerena's home - its walls painted a dark gray - and evidence collected at his home and three others searched that day. The photos show guns, ammunition, vehicles, cash, documents, cellphones and other items found at the homes or in the vehicles.

Guerena was killed by members of the Pima County Regional SWAT team at his southwest-side home as he held an AR-15 rifle, authorities say.

He was hit 22 times, according to the Pima County Medical Examiner's Office. His wife and young son were in the home but they were not hurt.

Sheriff's Department documents said the raid was part of a long-term drug investigation of Guerena, his brother, several family members and others. No arrests have been made.

According to interviews released Friday, two officers knocked on the door before forcing it open.

Another officer entered the doorway with a shield that protects against handgun fire before he saw Guerena standing in hallway with a rifle.

The rest of the SWAT team attempted to squeeze into the tight entrance behind the officer.

The Sheriff's Department originally said Guerena pointed a rifle at officers before he was shot. It was later determined he did not fire at the officers.

However, most of the officers interviewed by detectives said they feared for their lives, thinking Guerena was trying to kill them.

Officer Hector Iglecias, told detectives he fired his handgun after he saw the muzzle flashes from Guerena's rifle, documents state.

"I get this slight glimpse to the left, which is kind of like a living room area," Iglecias said during the interview, which occurred right after the shooting.

"And I see, pretty much, a male subject come out," he said.

Iglecias, of the Sahuarita Police Department, said he saw an object on the right side of Guerena's body before he saw the muzzle flashes.

The officer said he then fired nine or 10 rounds from his handgun while holding it with one hand before the gun malfunctioned. He and other officers told authorities they saw splinters coming off the doorway during the shooting.

He fell while attempting to reload, he said, prompting the other officers to believe he was hit.

Iglecias described how officers pulled him in front of the entrance and took him behind an armored vehicle parked in front of the house.

Other officers described hearing shots fired in their direction.

Deputy Kenneth Walsh was the officer who gave the commands for Guerena to come out of the house.

Walsh told investigators he issued at least two sets of commands in English and Spanish before he and another officer were ordered to open the door.

The order to open the door came during his third set of commands, he said.

It took at least a minute to issue the commands before they knocked down the door, he said.

He also described a hectic scene filled with gunfire and splintering objects.

"I'm just seeing pieces of wood, you know, from the doorjamb," he said. "I couldn't tell if it was inside or outside."

He also recalled seeing a muzzle flash coming from inside the home.

Another SWAT team member, Deputy Christopher Garcia, told investigators he heard Guerena yell something as he came toward the SWAT team holding the rifle.

Garcia began firing when Guerena approached them.

"I continued firing at the suspect where I saw him, directly in front of me holding the rifle," he said.

He stopped shooting when he saw Iglecias fall on his back, he said. "I believe my life was in danger and the other operators that were also there, that their lives were in danger as well," he said.

Contact reporter Jamar Younger at jyounger@azstarnet.com or 573-4115.

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

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