The SWAT team that gunned down an ex-Marine in his own home was targeting him as part of a drug and home-invasion probe, but no drugs were found in the home, documents released by the Pima County sheriff's office show.
SWAT team members acknowledge in interviews that Jose Guerena never fired his weapon before the officers broke down his door and killed him with a barrage of 71 bullets, shown in a dramatic helmet-cam video released Thursday.
Guerena, 26, a veteran of two tours of duty in Iraq, was asleep after working a night shift at the Asarco copper mine when his wife, Vanessa, saw the team outside her youngest son's bedroom window and yelled to her husband. He grabbed his AR-15 rifle.
Vanessa Guerena didn't know the men were SWAT officers and thought they might be home invaders, especially because two members of her sister-in-law's family were killed last year in their Tucson home, her lawyer, Chris Scileppi, said.
The video and audiotapes released also shows the police officers did briefly use a siren and announced who they were, shouting "police, search warrant, open the door" in English and Spanish as they arrived at Guerena's Tucson home on May 5.
A SWAT officer, Sgt. Bob Krygier, told officials of the sheriff's office who are investigating the incident that the raid on Guerena's home was probing "possible drug running, home invasions and potential homicides."
He said "many guns" were found in the house, including the AR15 that Guerena was holding, another rifle, and a handgun. Body armor was also found and a U.S. Border Patrol hat, he said. "He was well-armed, well armored," Krygier said, but when asked if Guerena was wearing body armor at the time of his death, he said, "no…he basically had a pair of boxer briefs on and that was it."
"They're just putting out lies," Reyna Ortiz, a relative who is helping to care for his wife Vanessa and her two young sons, said of the report.
Mike Storie, an attorney representing the SWAT officers, said the video clearly refutes allegations that the officers did not announce who they were as they arrived at the home. He said the officers didn't necessarily expect to find drugs.
"They expect to find things that are indicative of home invasion activity, drug ripoff activity," he said. Storie said body armor could be one such item.
He said earlier reports that more than 70 shots were fired at Guerena and that he was hit 60 times are not accurate. The body received 22 hits, he said.
"The SWAT guys are pretty hurt and confused because normally there's great support for them in this community," Storie said and predicted that their actions will ultimately be found to have been justified .
But protests in the community continue. Guerena's widow will join members of the Oathkeepers, a group of veterans and law-enforcement officials, for a Memorial Day rally Monday at the Guerena home . The Oathkeepers say on their website that they are determined "to take a stand against the egregious policy of using SWAT teams to serve search warrants on veterans and gun owners with no violent criminal history."