May 5, 2011 the Pima County (Arizona) Sheriff’s Office SWAT team put on their battle-rattle, climbed into their armored personnel carrier, and did an early morning raid on a suspected drug distributor’s home. Said suspect was José Guerena, a combat veteran of the Iraq war who worked third shift at a local mine. Seeing armed men in their front yard, Guerena’s wife apparently woke him. He put his wife and 4-year-old son in a closet, retrieved his AR-15 rifle, and prepared to confront what he thought were home invaders.
When the Sheriff’s deputies broke open his front door, they saw him in the hallway, armed, and opened fire. Seventy rounds were expended, 22 of them striking Guerena. He never received medical attention. It is believed that he lived for approximately an hour after being shot.
Here’s helmet-cam footage of the incident. Check the “professionalism” of the PCSD SWAT team:
Three months after the raid, in which no drugs were found in the Guerena home and no evidence of wrongdoing on his part, no one had been charged with any crime. Guerena’s family sued for $20 million. They have been awarded $3.4 million.
José Guerena’s crime, for which he paid with his life? Having relatives involved in the drug trade.
Had they wanted to, the Sheriff’s department could have arrested him at work and then searched his home at their leisure. Instead, they suited up and did a “raid.” And an innocent man is dead because of it.
And as Radley Balko documents, this is not an exceptional case, except possibly for the settlement.