The man shot and killed by Pima County SWAT officers was linked to a home-invasion crew, the attorney representing the officers said Thursday.
Michael Storie said authorities found rifles, hand guns, body armor and a portion of a law enforcement uniform inside the house where Jose Guerena was shot by officers serving a search warrant May 5.
“Everything they think they’re going to find in there they find,” said Storie in a news conference called a day after the Sheriff’s Department complained media reports on the incident spread misinformation and encouraged speculation about events surrounding the shooting.
The Sheriff’s Department said Wednesday it would provide no details about the case to the public until the investigation is complete.
The search warrant and court documents showing what deputies were looking for and seized from Guerena’s home have been sealed by a judge and are unavailable to the public.
Christopher Scileppi, who is representing the Guerena family, said nothing seized from Guerena’s home was illegal and that Storie’s statements were unsupported by facts and meant to discredit Guerena’s character. Scileppi did not comment on the details of the case.
Thursday afternoon the sheriff’s department declined to comment on what the attorneys said.
All statements made by Storie on Thursday morning came from the five SWAT officers he is representing, he said.
The five officers had “no choice but to shoot” when they breached the front door of the house in the 7100 block of South Redwater Drive and saw Guerena holding a rifle, Storie said.
The house was targeted as part of an investigation into home invasions and drug rip offs. The Guerena house was among homes that “were identified as locations where these activities were being carried out from.”
No arrests have been made from any of the other homes where SWAT served search warrants, Storie said.
According to the SWAT members’ statements all law enforcement vehicles approaching Guerena’s home had lights and sirens on and parked in the driveway, Storie said.
Guerena’s wife, Vanessa Guerena, who was inside the house with their 4-year-old son, has said she did not see or hear lights and sirens and that Guerena thought they were being targeted for a home invasion, which is why her husband grabbed his AR-15 rifle and told her and their son to hide in a closet.
The raid took place at about 9:30 a.m. and Guerena, 26, was asleep after working the graveyard shift at Asarco Mission mine, Guerena’s wife said.
Storie said once parked outside the home, the lights and sirens were turned off. An officer banged on the door for about 45 seconds while identifying themselves as police, he said.
After that, five SWAT members broke in the front door and saw Guerena holding a rifle at the end of a long hallway.
One officer began shooting after Guerena placed the rifle in front of him and said “I’ve got something for you, I’ve got something for you guys,” Storie said.
The other officers at the front door of the house, also fired striking Guerena.
All five SWAT members were shooting from just outside the home and never entered the house, Storie said.
When asked why SWAT members did not rush in to render medical aid to Guerena, Storie said officers on scene “have to assume that there are other people with guns and that there are other people with body armor inside the residence.”
He said officers could not conclude Guerena was incapacitated because Guerena fell down into a room after he was shot and officers could not see him from the doorway.
Based on a photograph of a large blood stain inside the home, Scileppi said, Guerena fell down in clear view of the front door and officers could see him.
The SWAT officers fired 71 shots, striking Guerena 60 times.
The search warrant was not directed at any particular person, and Guerena’s name was not mentioned, it was targeting whoever might be inside the residence, Storie said.
If SWAT members had been let in to the home, those inside “probably they wouldn’t have been arrested,” Storie said.
While the SWAT team was at Guerena’s home, another SWAT team was serving a search warrant in a nearby home as part of the same investigation and Storie said, a man showed up during the search and said “you shot my relative.”
Storie believes somebody called from inside Guerena’s home and alerted family members to the shooting.
Scileppi said he would not comment on those allegations until he “has all the facts.”
A portrait of Jesus Malverde, believed to be a “narco saint” was found under Guerena’s bed, Storie said. He did not know if there were drugs found inside the home. Guerena’s wife denies having that in her home.
According to Storie, several days before the shooting, undercover officers in an unmarked car drove by Guerena’s home to do surveillance and 10 minutes after they drove by, they were alerted that their license plate had been run through Motor Vehicle Division by someone they say followed the unmarked vehicle from Guerena’s home.
That was considered counter-surveillance on law enforcement, Storie said.
Under the Federal Privacy Act, the MVD in Arizona cannot release information on a license plate to anyone other than to law enforcement.
Scileppi said it took two weeks for “the fourth version of the story” and these details to emerge because “they needed to put a story out that is going to protect them.
”Bottom line is they’ve had two weeks to construct a story, circle the wagon,” Scileppi said.
Scileppi asked Storie and the sheriff’s department to “release whatever information they have about the killing of Jose to help the family know what really happened. The family wants to know the truth.”
Scileppi has partnered with Patrick Broom for this case. The five officers Storie is representing are from the Sahuarita, Marana and Oro Valley police departments, and two from the sheriff’s department. The sheriff’s SWAT team is made up of officers from different agencies.