Probe clears 5 SWAT-raid officers

2011-06-14T00:00:00Z 2013-09-17T16:03:27Z Probe clears 5 SWAT-raid officersBy Fernanda Echavarri Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
June 14, 2011 12:00 am  • 

The five SWAT officers who shot and killed 26-year-old Jose Guerena while serving a search warrant May 5 have been cleared of any wrongdoing.

The Pima County Regional SWAT team members -from four law enforcement agencies in the county - were justified in using deadly force against Guerena, according to an investigation by the Pima County Attorney's Office.

The team members were: Officer Jake Shumate, Marana police; Officer Jason Horetski Oro Valley police; Officer Hector Iglesias, Sahuarita police; and Deputies Kenneth Walsh and Chris Garcia, of the Pima County Sheriff's Department. Chief Criminal Deputy David Berkman determined there is no basis on which to prosecute those officers.

The officers shot at Guerena 71 times while serving a search warrant related to a drug-trafficking investigation, documents show.

Fewer than a third of those shots hit Guerena, leaving 49 rounds passing through walls and some hitting nearby homes, according to reports released by the department.

Guerena was struck 22 times, 18 of those on his extremities.

The report showed the shots entered Guerena's body through the front, meaning he was facing officers when he was shot, Berkman wrote in the letter to Sheriff Clarence Dupnik Monday.

A close examination of the AR-15 rifle Guerena was holding at the time he was shot revealed that the bullet damage was done at an angle that indicated Guerena was pointing it at the officers, Berkman wrote in the letter.

Guerena was at his home in the 7100 block of South Redwater Drive with his wife and their 4-year-old son at about 9:30 a.m. when the SWAT team arrived.

SWAT officers turned the sirens on for about seven seconds when they approached the southwest-side house and knocked on the front door three times, announcing themselves for 15 seconds, a video released by the Sheriff's Department revealed.

Guerena was at the end of a hallway holding a rifle when officers began shooting at him, SWAT officers said in narrative reports of the raid.

Guerena did not shoot, and his AR-15 rifle had the safety on and a round in the chamber when he was killed, sheriff's officials said.

"The officers were mistaken in believing that Mr. Guerena fired at them," Berkman wrote. "However, when Mr. Guerena raised the AR-15 semiautomatic assault rifle in their direction, they needed to take immediate action to stop the deadly threat against them."

Officer Garcia was the first to shoot after "fearing for his life," Berkman said in his findings, and that first shot produced a muzzle flash that other officers thought was a muzzle flash coming in the opposite direction.

Officer Iglesias then slipped and fell backward, which the other officers mistook as a fall after being shot, Berkman wrote.

A call to Christopher Scileppi, an attorney representing Guerena's family, was not returned Monday.

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