The Death of Jose Guerena

Posted on: September 22, 2012

It is a common mentality of veterans returning from combat that we are ‘invincible.’ After seeing the horrors of war most veterans never have the thought of dying at home by the people who are now sworn to protect you. I am a firm believer that public service is the ultimate test of your right to be an American. Whether your public service is being an activist, a military member, a politician or a police officer, your duty is your country and your people. On May 5, 2011 that was not the case with an Arizona Sheriff’s department.

Jose Guerena was a United States Marine Corps combat veteran that served at least one tour to Iraq. He had a wife and a child and was working the night shift at a mine near Tucson, Arizona. At the time of the incident, Guerena was asleep after returning home from a twelve hour shift at the ASACO Mission Mine. At approximately 9:30 AM, Guerena was awakened by his wife after hearing noises outside of their home, which were later identified as flash/bang grenades. Guerena, a well trained combat veteran, instructed his wife and son to take cover in a closet while he armed himself with his AR-15, and crouched around a corner while preparing to defend himself from whomever was breaking into his home.

The sheriff’s department busted down the door to the home and immediately fired seventy-one shots at Jose Guerena.

During the questioning of the officers involved with the shooting, several different versions of the event started to surface. There were five officers stacked at the door to the home and essentially gave five different stories as to what happened. One officer said that he engaged Guerena after visibly seeing muzzle flashes inside the home, another engaged after seeing bullets hit the falling splinters from the broken door. Both interpretations of the story have been considered invalid due to the fact that when Guerena’s rifle was recovered the safety was still on and there was no evidence of carbon build-up in the barrel, an expected result from firing bullets through a firearm.

As Guerena was laying on the ground following the shooting, he was still alive and could have potentially been saved had the SWAT team utilized the ambulance or Lifeline helicopter on standby specifically for the raid or if the medics dispatched by Guerena’s wife had been allowed to respond to the dying marine. Paramedis were instructed to “hold back.”

The Tucson Sheriff’s department planned this raid due to allegations of drug trafficking. During the department’s investigation and subsequent confiscation of evidence in the house, there were no drugs found. In fact, Jose was so clean that when the autopsy report was released, there was no trace of any illicit drug in his system. The department did report that there was one AR-15, one .38 handgun, body armor and a US Border Patrol ball cap. None of these items are illegal to own or possess.

Following the death of her husband, Guerena’s widow states that she “had no knowledge that the man pointing a gun at her through the window was a police officer,” and that she thought he “was a member of a home invasion group.” I can see the difficulty identifying police doing raids on homes for suspected drug trafficking since they are normally fully decked out in black clothing, black hats and with weapons at the ready.

Upon receiving a request from Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik, a judge sealed the warrants as well as the documents showing what items were seized from the home. Dupnik stated this was to protect the identity of a confidential informant and criticized the press for wanting to know the details of the shooting. On June 2, 2011, the Pima Superior Court released warrants and other information related to the raid but redacted a fair amount of the material to protect the informant.

As of May, 2011 the members of the SWAT team retained a criminal defense attorney to represent them for any potential charges filed against them and in an article released by Infowars in November of 2011, the case had been dropped and it had been decided that no further legal action would be pursued by state. I will not attempt to form any opinions for the readers of this article but I will provide helmet cam footage of one of the operators involved with the raid.

The fact that has been very clear about this case is that drug policy and drug law enforcement is much more dangerous than the actual drugs themselves. In 10,000 years of known cannabis use there has never been a single death attributed to the use of the plant. There has never been an overdose. There has never been negative long term health effects from using this plant. The laws involving cannabis are far more damaging not only to the individual, but to the economy and the country as a whole.

In 2011, there were 850,000 people incarcerated for drug possession. That is 850,000 people who will have a very difficult time ever finding gainful employment. That is 850,000 people who are more likely to need government assistance for the majority of their lives. That is 850,000 people who will probably never attend college or graduate college. That is 850,000 people that we paid to tax money to keep in cages for holding a flower that puts them in a good mood.

It is time for the citizens of this country to ask the hard questions such as “What is more damaging, the drug or the policy?” I can assure you it is the latter, not the former.