Editor’s note: This is the first guest post from Jim March, who may be reached for comment at firstname.lastname@example.org in addition to the comments section here. – KL
Further Information: The Arizona Daily Star has released a PDF of the affidavit in support of the search warrant which led to the shooting. And Will Grigg chimes in: http://lewrockwell.com/grigg/grigg-w217.html
These and other photographs © 2011 by Jim March. The “for sale” sign is on a neighbor’s house.
On Memorial Day, May 30th 2011, I attended a rally and set of speeches surrounding the shooting of recent Iraq-war returnee Jose Guerena, USMC. The Oath Keepers were the primary sponsors but to their credit didn’t try and dominate the proceedings, which included everything from a Code Pink contingent to Guerena family members and supporters and generally interested members of the community. What I learned there and in study of the available data suggests serious problems at all levels: horrible policy decisions beforehand, a grossly mis-managed raid and an appearance of a cover-up after the fact. Throughout this article, I will try and portray the facts available in the best possible light for the law enforcement officers and managers involved.
As we’ll see, even when we try and do that, the resulting implications vary from disgusting to terrifying.
First, before reading this, I urge you to study the available video footage of the shooting scene at least twice:
- In my study of the actual shooting location and the video footage Pima County has made available to date, I have reason to think that the footage is incomplete. At a minimum, one of the deputies who was actually shooting had a helmet cam as one of two visible “dongles” on his helmet. Below is a still image from the video, at 30 seconds in – where is that video?
- Deputies knew that Mr. Guerena was a recent combat veteran of two tours in Iraq, that he legally owned guns, and that the raid was taking place just over two hours after he did a 12hr shift at a mine. Combined with the very brief warning period before battering his door in and the use of a “siren” that sounded more like a car alarm, they knew or should have known that Mr. Guerena wasn’t going to survive this encounter.
- Because nothing whatsoever was found in Mr. Guerena’s home, we can be certain that if given the opportunity, Mr. Guerena would have consented to the search. He didn’t have to die.
- Close-range photography of Mr. Guerena’s front door shows that “suppressive fire” was being sprayed in. This was closer to a “drive by” than anything resembling modern police work – and it happened in a home where they knew a woman and child were present.
- Worse, the photographs of the front door show sprays of “misses” to either side that, at least at first glance, don’t appear to have been made during the period where most of the shots were made as per the video released by Pima County to date. If video is being withheld that shows additional firing, criminal misconduct may have happened that the Pima County sheriff’s office is attempting to suppress knowledge of. Again: I don’t know this for sure – the various “doorframe hits” may indeed have happened within the 54 seconds of video from a single, distant camera released so far. But, I don’t see those hits happen or anybody in position to make all of those exact hits.
- If it is now policy to lethally eliminate anybody who attempts to defend their home when it is impossible to distinguish between home invaders and law enforcement because they behave in exactly the same fashion, then it is finally time to question the “war on drugs”. Ending it is now a simple survival measure for gun owners. To his credit, former “drug warrior” and former Sheriff Richard Mack is now admitting this, publicly. To their discredit, the “Oath Keepers” aren’t quite ready yet. Individual members clearly “got it” but the official policy isn’t there yet.
Direct Evidence – The Front Door
- Round marked “one” hit the end of the door with it swung open, so the entry point isn’t visible with it closed. What you see here is the exit.
- As best I can tell, entry holes two and three match door exit holes four and five – in other words, like hole number one they entered the door’s “end” with it swung open, but they also passed through the doorframe and made initial entry holes at two and three. If so, this indicates a fairly extreme downward angle, as if Mr. Guerena was already on the ground?
- In general, what we see here is at best evidence of “spray and pray” fire. At worst, if these were made after the initial burst of fire, they were part of an attempt to “make sure he’s dead”.
- This door proves that a fully military operating using distinctly military tactics1 have now been applied to somebody with no criminal record, with a recent distinguished combat record in the service of this country, in a densely populated suburban area against a home that contained a child that “law enforcement” knew was present.
Direct Evidence – Rear Of Home
This isn’t quite as bad as it appears to be. What looks like “horizontal stringing” (a tendency for the group of shots to land in an up-and-down pattern) may not be, because we don’t know what the pattern looked like coming through the glass. And as rounds struck within the home, they would likely be deflected “at random”…in other words, bullets entering anything (flesh, walls, furniture, etc.) can pop out at odd angles, and do so at near-random angles in a sort of “cone shaped” area of probability on the other side of whatever they hit.
- If answering home invaders with a gun in hand will always get you killed if it happens to be law enforcement acting like home invaders, then the 2nd Amendment has been essentially nullified.
- A search warrant carried out under circumstances that will predictably lead to the death of the person being searched is, by definition, an unreasonable search. Therefore both the 2nd and 4th Amendments were severely disrespected in this instance and in far too many others related to the “war on drugs”.
- For this reason, it is now far past time for the NRA, Second Amendment Foundation, CalGuns Foundation, Gun Owners of America, the Arizona Citizen’s Defense League and the like to figure out that “the war on drugs” is now a “war” on every American, especially gun owners. I for one don’t believe law enforcement should decide to kill me at the merest suggestion that I’m harboring contraband, and I for one will fight such policies at every possible level.
- Taking this stance would put them in alignment with the ACLU on this issue, and would possibly conflict with some elements of their “conservative base”. Said elements however need to learn from this incident and decide which is more worthy of preservation: the US constitution, or high prices for various mind-altering substances? That is really the choice we’re down to, and I believe most are ready to support the former over the latter once it’s presented that way.
1. Not performed very well mind you! See also the video – they bust the door down, then stroll away, then casually wander in while others “hang out” in the area where bullets could fly past if there really was a murderer present. They were very, very lucky they were NOT up against a determined killer. Five rounds from a 50cal Barrett would have turned them all into hamburger. Then again, so would a Civil War era front-stuffer cannon – or similar improvised out of plumbing supplies…