News and views from the award-winning author of the Class H Trilogy: AMERICA LIBRE, HOUSE DIVIDED and PANCHO LAND

Monday, May 23, 2011

Why was Latino Former Marine shot 60 times by Arizona SWAT team?

Another Latino has been shot dead in an Arizona home invasion and the national media is once again ignoring the story. It happened on May 5 and the news is only now surfacing outside the Arizona media through citizen journalism on blogs, Twitter, YouTube and Facebook.

According to the Arizona Daily Star...
Jose Guerena, 26, a former Marine, was sleeping after the graveyard shift at Asarco Mission mine about 9:30 a.m. when his wife woke him saying she heard noises outside and a man was at their window. Guerena told his wife to hide in a closet with their 4-year-old son, his wife has said. He grabbed an AR-15 rifle and moments later was slumped in the kitchen, mortally wounded from a hail of gunfire.

Jose was shot 60 times by members of the Pima Regional SWAT team. His bullet riddled body was found by his wife Vanessa and their four-year-old son, Joel.  “Mom, my dad was a bad guy? What did my dad do?'" asked Joel according to Vanessa. Her desperate 911 call to save her husband’s life was recorded on a chilling YouTube video.

The explanation by the Pima County Sheriff’s office for the home invasion has changed since the May 5 shooting. First reports by the Sheriff’s office were that the SWAT team’s mission was to break up a suspected drug ring and that Jose fired his weapon before the SWAT team fired back. That story was later reversed when it was discovered the safety on Jose's AR-15 was still locked. The motive for the SWAT team’s mission was then changed by the Sheriff’s office, which now says that "someone in the home" had been suspected of a connection with a home invasion robbery ring. The search warrant and court documents that would reveal what the SWAT team was looking for in Guerena's home have been sealed by a judge and are unavailable to the public.

No drugs, cash or criminal evidence of any kind were found in the home. Neither Jose nor his wife Vanessa has a criminal record.  In an attempt to discredit Guerena’s character, a lawyer for the AZCOPS law-enforcement union, Michael Storie, told the media that rifles, handguns, body armor and a portion of a law-enforcement uniform were found inside the house where Jose Guerena was shot. However, Storie was forced to admit that if SWAT members had entered the home without incident, those inside "probably ... wouldn't have been arrested."

Ironically, Pima County Sheriff Clarence W. Dupnik was highly critical of right wing talk radio following the Tucson shooting of Representative Gabrielle Giffords in January, saying that Arizona had become "a mecca for prejudice and bigotry" thanks to the “vitriol” spread by far-right pundits.  Sheriff Dupnik is now stonewalling requests for more details about the case but implied Guerena should not have resisted.

Although virtually ignored by the national media, most Latinos in Arizona know about the 2009 home invasion by Shawna Forde and her Minutemen accomplices posing as Border Patrol agents that led to the shooting death of 9-year-old Brisenia Flores and her father. So it’s not surprising José Guerena would have reached for his rifle to defend his family.

Jose served two tours of duty as a decorated Marine in Iraq. He returned from service no doubt grateful to have survived the firefights in that war-torn nation. In a cruel twist of fate, he would die in a hail of bullets in his own home.

This tragic story is shocking and sad. Sadder still is that this tragedy has found no "bounce" in the national media. Had this two-hitch Iraq veteran been named Grady instead of Guerena, I think it would have made headlines across the country.

No federal investigation of the actions by the Pima County SWAT team is planned at this time. And without any significant national media coverage of this questionable incident, that is likely how it will remain. 


Raul Ramos y Sanchez

2 comments:

Tomas said...

The shifting story from law enforcement is another disturbing element to this. It rings all too familiar to those of us with a long perspective, in addition to working to squash the story. I suspect most national news outlets are waiting for the "drug connections" that time is proving are nonexistent.

Raul Ramos y Sanchez said...

Tomas, until the story receives national media attention it's unlikely a federal investigation will be launched into the actions of the Pima County SWAT team.