Imagine, if you will gentle readers, that a fundamental premise I’ve been employing in reporting on and analyzing this case, is faulty. I refer to the scoped AR-15 rifle that I–and virtually everyone else–is assuming belonged to Jose Guerena. And with that assumption, the police story of being confronted by a murderous rifle-wielding cartel hit man (OK, a sleepy hit man, wearing nothing but boxer shorts) makes some sense and gives license for shooting Jose Guerena–22 times out of 71 rounds fired–and also shooting up his home from exterior wall to exterior wall and floor to ceiling, and also perforating the surrounding neighborhood.
There are some problems with this, including Sheriff Dupnik claiming that the only reason a two combat tour Marine didn’t take the AR-15 off safe was because he couldn’t manipulate the safety. A Marine? A Marine with two combat tours? An AR-15, with one of the most ergonomic and easy-to-manipulate safeties in the world of firearms? Rather clumsy for a stone cold killer, no?
UPDATE 4: This update introduced the five officers that participated in the shoot-fest in Guerena’s home. It also analyzed the statements of the police and others involved in the case.
Among other incredible statements, the police claimed that the rifle found near Guerena’s body was damaged in such a way that they could tell it must have been “pointed toward officers.” This is nonsense on stilts. Considering the sheer volume of fire, there is no way to tell, from supposed damage on the rifle–which to my knowledge has never been revealed or documented–if Guerena actually pointed it at them, or if it was merely pointing toward the door of the home as it lay on the ground after Guerena dropped it while the terror-stricken officers continued to pour panicky fire into the area.
A Pima County Sheriff’s Department media release also identified the rifle as “an automatic AR-15 assault rifle.” This too is nonsense. All accounts indicate the weapon was nothing more than a common semi-automatic AR-15, the most popular modern sporting rifle in America.
Sheriff Clarence Dupnik claimed that the only reason Guerena didn’t shoot is because he forgot the safety was on and couldn’t manipulate it–a task that takes a fraction of a second for a trained shooter–before being shot with 22 out of 71 rounds. He also claimed that Guerena must have known his attackers were the police and that they were there to “arrest him for murder.”
This too is lunacy. There is no evidence whatever to tie Guerena to any murder. In fact, the recent settlement in the case has revealed that in his deposition, Dupnik had to admit that he had no evidence to believe Guerena was responsible for any such crime. In other words, all of his character assassination of Jose was lies. In addition, even the self-serving, deceptive statements of the SWAT team members, particularly the interview of Sgt. Bob Krygier done on the day of the raid (Update 5 and Update 5.2) provide no evidence at all that the police thought they were there to serve a warrant for murder, or any other crime. Their raid was a fishing expedition in the hope of finding evidence of some–any–crime. At Jose Guerena’s home, the only crime was his murder by the police.
That known, how could Guerena suspect the police were after him for murder? In fact, there is no evidence that Guerena knew the people breaking down his door were the police. I’ve reproduced a diagram that is not drawn to scale, but is intended only to represent the general dimensions and spatial relationships of Guerena’s home and front yard the morning he was killed.
A day sleeper, Guerena was sound asleep when the police arrived. His vehicle was parked in his driveway in front of his garage. The blinds of his front window–the only window providing a view of the front of the home–were closed. We know that Vanessa Guerena noticed an armed man in her yard, but she has been absolutely consistent that she did not think that armed man to be a police officer.
But the officers were wearing tactical gear identifying them as the police! She must have recognized that man as a police officer. Unlikely. The tactical gear worn by the officers was military green, and their insignia identifying them as police officers was by far larger on their backs than on the fronts of their equipment. In fact, any officer carrying a long gun of any kind would be highly likely to cover any front-facing police insignia with their arms or weapon from most front and side angles of view. Identifying the armed man as a police officer would also require Vanessa to display the kind of cool, calm, calculating deliberation that takes soldiers in combat several fire fights to develop, if ever. It would have also required her to take the time to observe the armed man through window glass long enough to be spotted, and potentially, killed, window glass having poor bullet resistant qualities.
What is most likely is that, as she told the police, she saw the armed man and immediately screamed for Jose and ran to their bedroom–in the back portion of the home–to awaken Jose. Jose, awakened out of a sound sleep and wearing only boxer shorts, rushed Vanessa and his son to another bedroom and hid them in a closet. Only then did he go to the main hallway in the home and there met a hail of police gunfire. If Jose did have a rifle in his hands, it is most likely he, having the combat experience to observe closely, and able to observe closely because his eyes were adapted to the dark interior of his home, realized the attackers were police officers and did not take his weapon off safe or fire on them. He would, in fact, have been likely to have lowered the barrel of the weapon to low ready, pointed at the floor in front of him. If the weapon was not his, however…
But Jose and Vanessa must have heard the police siren and the police officers themselves! Possible, but far from certain and more likely not to be true. Jose and Vanessa had only seconds before the police broke in the door and began firing. During that time he and Vanessa were running through the part of their home furthest from the front yard. No doubt, the air conditioning was on, and when it is, it is virtually impossible for anyone to hear what is happening in their front yard, particularly when they are in a back room, and particularly if they are moving and making noise at the same time, believing an armed attack to be imminent.
But the police ran their siren and flashed their overhead lights and they yelled to identify themselves! Yes. They ran the siren intermittently for nine seconds, and ran the light intermittently for nine seconds. But the vehicle with the lights and siren was in the street, behind Guerena’s vehicle parked in his driveway in front of his closed garage, and out of line of the only front facing window in the home, a window with closed blinds. All police officers know that in bright sunlight their overhead lights are very hard to see at best and act accordingly. There is no way anyone in that home saw those lights or even knew they were there.
Even inside the police armored vehicle where the video camera was recording the incredibly inept raid (video available here) the siren is quite quiet–conversation and music playing (?!) in the vehicle can still be clearly heard–and the officers at the door are all but inaudible. In fact, when they break in the door, they can’t be heard saying anything at all, and simply stand there, apparently dumbfounded and having no idea what to do next. If the Guerenas heard anything at all, it is entirely possible they would not have identified it as a police siren, and even if they did, what reason did they have to believe the police would be at their front door in the early morning in force? And even if they did realize that, how could they suddenly understand that an armed and particularly untrained and feckless SWAT team was about to break down their door?
Understand that police sirens are broadcast via tweeters, or high frequency, highly directional speakers. They are also commonly called “horns” because they resemble the bells of trumpets and similar instruments. Sound in the higher frequency range is uni-directional, while sound in the lower frequency range–bass tones–is not. When setting up a home stereo, it is vital that the high frequency speakers–tweeters–be at ear level and directed at the listeners. Bass speakers may be placed virtually anywhere within the listening area. It is these simple facts of acoustics that cause the police to mount their siren speakers facing forward at the front of their vehicles. Even so, smart police officers understand that it is entirely possible, likely even, to “outrun the siren,” or to be moving so quickly it can’t be heard, even in front of them. Every experienced police officer has stories of closely following citizens for miles with lights flashing and siren blaring because the citizens were simply oblivious, unable–in their steel, air-conditioned rolling living rooms–to hear the siren, and in bright sunlight, to see the lights.
In this case, the siren in the armored police vehicle was apparently not pointed at the Guerena home, but down the street, broadcasting its sound away from the home. Even if the vehicle was pointing at the home, if was directly behind Guerena’s vehicle, which would have absorbed or deflected most of the sound, and the garage, rather than an occupied area of the home, would also have served as a buffer, muffling virtually all of the sound.
If they heard a siren at all, and it is most likely they did not, it would have been easy to think it a nearby car alarm, or perhaps a passing ambulance, if they recognized it as a siren of any kind at all. It was only on long enough for a few rings of a telephone after all, and a vehicle, a driveway, their garage, and their entire closed home was between them and it. And again, the police story requires Vanessa and Jose to immediately have understood what was happening, who was involved, and to have done something–Lord knows what that might have been–to prevent a group of the most bumbling and dangerous police officers I’ve ever seen from killing him.
Might they have heard people knocking on the door? That is audible on the tape–barely–but how would that translate into immediate knowledge of an imminent, violent SWAT team entry? They may have heard people yelling, but there is no evidence whatever they understood what they were saying, or understood that yelling to be police officers announcing their presence and their intention to break in the front door and begin emptying their magazines in every direction, including into the front door and door frame surrounding the officers.
Even so, the police line is basically that when armed police officers come to someone’s door, run a siren and their lights a few seconds, yell “police” a few seconds, and bash in the door, if they find anyone holding a gun, they’re completely justified in killing them. In fact, they’re justified in expecting to kill them first and sorting things out later. If that’s true, God help us all.
UPDATE 5: In this update, Sheriff Dupnik claimed there were a great many people involved in the drug case, and it would take a very long time to make arrests. It did take a very long time, but the number of people arrested, and the low level charges against them, would expose Dupnik’s claim that Jose Guerena was involved in a vast drug cartel as an obvious and pathetic lie. As this is written, the murder case remains unsolved. There is, in fact, substantial evidence that the drug detectives involved in this debacle actually interfered with, perhaps even sabotaged, the murder investigation in their clumsy attempts to cover up and justify their incompetence. I’ll be covering that issue in future updates.
But Update 5 was interesting primarily for its exposition of the police interview of Sgt. Bob Krygier of the Pima Co. SD. Pima was the SWAT supervisor in tactical control of the raid–but actually wasn’t:
KT: Sgt. Krygier explains that he was the supervisor of the assault, but that he put Officer Jake Shumate of the Marana Police in functional command, saying’“I kind of guided him through it so it was more of a mentoring thing…’ Apparently Krygier and Shumate wrote the plan for the assault.
Krygier, by the way, thought Shumate did an outstanding job.
Krygier was interviewed only four hours after the raid. The interview transcript ran only 12 typewritten pages and lasted only 29 minutes. The detectives conducting the interview asked only about 30 very general questions. For the commander of a raid in which five officers fired 71 rounds–an unheard-of amount of gunfire–and hit a man in his boxer shorts only 22 times from short range inside a home while ventilating that home and the surrounding neighborhood, this is astonishing.
For far less serious cases, I’ve routinely conducted far longer interviews, with far more questions, which were absolutely specific. Such a brief, non-inquisitive interview can mean only one thing: the detectives were filling the blanks on an already written narrative rather than actually investigating the most egregious and dangerous police shooting in the history of their department. For competent investigators, the length and quality of the interview speaks volumes. It clearly reveals the investigation to be a cover-up.
Krygier’s interview has a tragic, even pathetic quality:
So, uh, and there was a lot of gunfire going on. I, I couldn’t estimate the numbers, but know-, knowing how many people were there, probably 80, 100 rounds were fired. I can’t say how many the bad guy fired, um, at us. So we immediately retreated back to armor once we, uh, made sure everyone was okay. I came on the radio and advised, uh, that shots had been fired. We got back to the, the bear cat kind of tried to, tried to calm things down. Obviously, there was a lot of, uh, tension going on at that point. The adrenaline was pumping.
Remember that this is the tactical commander on the scene:
…they saw a male figure down in the hallways, they, you know, into the house with a gun and he was shooting at us. Um, they obviously said they fired, they said they don’t know what happened, because there was a lot of smoke and they couldn’t really see through it after the, the shooting, but the shooting had stopped, so that’s when we retreated.
They didn’t know what happened, and shooting stopped. Yes. It stopped because they expended all of their ammunition and/or their weapons malfunctioned. They were the only people shooting. I observed:
The vague nature of this transcript is remarkable in that officers involved in shootings are commonly anxious to get on the record their justification for shooting, particularly if they believe the shooting to be fully justified. Are we to believe that the SWAT supervisor, the co-planner of the assault, the officer in charge on the scene, didn’t ask what happened? That he did not ask for specific, to-the-second details? That he had no specific idea why the officers unleashed such a highly unusual torrent of fire? Or is this volume of fire in what appears to have been—apart from the panicky and mostly innaccurate barrage at Jose Guerena–an unremarkable assault common for this team? If so, why isn’t this common knowledge?
UPDATE 5.2: In this update, which continued and completed my analysis of Krygier’s interview, the essentially farcical nature of the interview is made plain. Detectives Farmer and Tzystuck do their best to put words in Krygier’s mouth, as in this bizarre exchange:
Farmer: ‘Okay. So let’s move back to the, to the briefing that you got real quick.’
Krygier: ‘All Right.’
Farmer: ‘Um, you said that, you said that, uh, you were, you were briefed that the, the bad buy had involvements with home invasions uh, narcotic and, and human smuggling, and those types of activities.”
Krygier: ‘Not necessarily human smuggling.’
Krygier: ‘But, uh, specifically a home invasion, uh, specifically a double homicide and specifically that he was, he would, uh.’
Tzystuck: ‘He’s with the cartel.’
Krygier: ‘Yeah, yeah.’
Farmer: ‘Drug, drug rips and stuff like that.’
Farmer: ‘And his involvement in the cartel.’
Krygier: ‘Uh-huh (yes).’
Farmer: ‘Is, are firearms and, and body armor and those types of things, things that you know through your, your training and experience to be involved in, in, you know, uh…’
Krygier: ‘The drug trade.’
The hapless detectives tried to suggest that Guerena actually fired on the police, but Krygier, not sure how to best help them with their narrative, causes them to immediately shut down the interview:
Krygier: ‘Yeah, I, I was scared. Um, you know, there were, there, there was so many round being fired. Um, and again, I think I was mostly scared because I couldn’t see what was happening and I was literally inches away from the gunfight. Um, I was behind some cover, uh, you know, some stucco, but if you look at the house, you see these bullets are flying right through everything. Um, yea, I was very scared actually. Uh, and uh, I just, then I was, then I was making sure all the guys were okay and wanted to get them out of there and behind cover, so we could see what was going on.’
Tzystuck: ‘And because you made entry into the house, to secure it, to make sure there was no parties injured and you happened to see the deceased suspect.’
Krygier: ‘Uh-huh (yes).’
Tzystuck: ‘Were there multiple spent rounds next to him or on the floor, in the area, did you kn–, happen to notice that?’
Krygier: ‘Yeah, there, there were all kinds of rounds. Um, there were rounds from the front door to him.’
Krygier: ‘Um, there were actually there was rounds, handgun rounds that appeared that had gone through something and didn’t quite make it where they were going, but yes there were. There were holes in the wall, um, holes next to him, holes in the refrigerator, holes in the wall behind where he was. Uh, a lot of holes.’
The last thing the detectives wanted on the record is a graphic description of Guerena’s obscenely perforated home. They gave up and quit asking questions at that point.
The remainder of the article is my analysis of what actually happened, and what should have happened if the officers involved were competent.
The Final Issue:
What remains is suggested by Vanessa’s interviews (one was done without a translator, the second, with a translator–Vanessa is Mexican). Remember that she was actually arrested, forced to remain in the police “command post” and forced to answer their questions despite the fact that she was not suspected of any crime, nor was their any evidence to implicate her in any crime. However, these interviews–like the raid on the Guerena home–were clearly fishing expeditions done in the hope of finding something, anything.
The question is if the AR-15 actually belonged to Jose. If not, the logical implication is that it was planted by the police. If so, Jose was unarmed when shot 22 times.
I have not, to date, explored this issue because I have had no conclusive evidence to prove that the weapon did not belong to Jose. I continue to look into this matter, but there is reason to be concerned. Consider this screen shot of the interview transcript from the first interview. Vanessa’s comments are prefaced by “A”:
The detectives are obviously trying to support the narrative that Jose was a drug gang killer and “needed” guns. But Vanessa, obviously still in shock, despairing and innocent, doesn’t understand. Notice that she was unaware of the AR-15. Her answer indicated that she had never seen it, that Jose had “small ones”–likely handguns–but not the AR-15 or anything like it. She also suggests that the police planted the weapon. Notice too that in that statement, there are blanks, but the transcript does not indicate whether those blanks represent inaudible words or the police simply chose to remove some of her comments without acknowledging it. This is a clear break in transcript protocol.
Note this disturbing exchange from the second interview:
Vanessa tells them the AR-15 is like the weapons the SWAT team had (perhaps more than we imagine). One of the detectives tries to tell her that the weapon was Jose’s, but Vanessa doesn’t buy it. She clearly doesn’t recognize the weapon as belonging to Jose. A detective tells her no one planted a gun, but Vanessa, obviously upset, continues to say that she did not see that weapon.
It is possible that Vanessa was not intimately aware of every weapon Jose owned. Many wives would be in this situation, so it is possible Vanessa was simply mistaken and the AR-15 actually did belong to Jose.
However, it is also possible she was right. The weapon didn’t belong to Jose. It was planted by the police in a desperate attempt to cover for their shooting of an unarmed man in his boxer shorts in his own home.
In a case where the ownership of the weapon was in question, surely the police would have followed up to absolutely document the chain of ownership of the weapon. If they did not, that fact alone would reveal amazing incompetence, and almost certainly their knowledge that such investigation would reveal that the weapon was not Jose’s, and might even reveal that it belonged to one of the officers.
Understand, gentle readers, that I do not have sufficient evidence to definitively support either theory. Normally, one gives the police the benefit of the doubt. In this case, they have proved, repeatedly, that they do not deserve it. Even so, I cannot conclusively prove that the weapon was not Jose’s and that it was planted. I’ll continue to explore this issue in upcoming updates.