May 28, 2011

The Guerena Shooting: Initial Analysis

As regular readers know, I’m a USAF veteran (I was a security police officer in SAC during the cold war) and have extensive civilian police service, including SWAT duty. I have been writing on the Erik Scott case In Las Vegas since August of 2010. Those extensive posts are available in our Erik Scott archive.

The Jose Guerena shooting, which took place on May 5, is similar in many ways. My co-blogger, Bob’s May 25 story on the Pajamas Media site (here) has stimulated considerable interest in the story on the Net. What I’ve yet to see is concise information that would allow people who don’t have police and/or tactical team backgrounds to better understand what appears to have happened in this case. To that end, I’ll explain why SWAT teams exist, what purpose(s) they should serve, how they should work, and proper police procedure in any case where the police have shot a citizen.

I’ll also analyze the brief—less then 60 seconds—police video of the actual shooting (it may be found here). Please keep in mind that I am working only from media and Internet accounts, including the aforementioned video and other documents released by the Pima County Sheriff’s Office, the law enforcement entity involved. As such, I don’t have all of the facts, and as Donald Rumsfeld might say, there are unknown unknowns. In other words, I don’t know enough about this specific incident to know precisely what I don’t know.

That said, I hope to produce at least a reasonable foundation for understanding what seems to have happened on May 5. Go here and here for local media accounts of the incident.

UPDATE 052911, 1329 CT: Go here for an updated news story reporting that Guerena, according to the medical examiner, was actually hit 22 times, not 60 as was originally reported by the doctors who examined him. See the "Analysis" section below for additional commentary.


Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) teams have, over the last thirty years, become relatively common in American law enforcement. Their primary reason for being is to provide a highly trained, enhanced capability beyond the training and equipment available to patrol officers. Patrol officers are most commonly armed only with their handguns and perhaps .12 gauge shotguns in their patrol vehicles, though some police agencies have begun to also equip them with carbines, such as variants of the AR-15 family. This is rational in that the effective range of shotguns with reasonable accuracy is essentially the same as handguns. Many people think shotguns are extraordinarily powerful, long range weapons, but in fact, their enhanced effectiveness—compared with handgun ammunition—depends entirely on keeping the shot column together, which again, limits them to essentially the same practical range as handguns. Patrol officers commonly wear bullet-resistant vests (there is no such thing as a bullet-proof vest) sufficient only to stop common handgun rounds. Tactical vests such as those worn by SWAT operators are simply too large, bulky and heavy for daily patrol wear.

The classic scenario for a SWAT callout is a barricaded hostage taker, a situation that commonly ends with a negotiator talking the suspect or suspects out without bloodshed, or more rarely, with a single shot from a sniper’s rifle. More rare still is an assault by SWAT operators. This is rare because no matter how much SWAT types love to do this sort of thing, it is horrendously dangerous to everyone involved. SWAT teams are also commonly employed for the service of no-knock warrants, where absolute surprise, speed, and overwhelming action are a necessity to minimize danger and prevent the destruction of evidence.

SWAT teams are very expensive to equip, train and to maintain. Generally speaking, only major cities have dedicated SWAT teams whose focus is constant training. Such officers generally have no other primary duties and work together on a daily basis learning and honing their craft.

It’s particularly important to understand that one of the fundamental principles of professional SWAT philosophy and training is that each operator be superior to his police peers in physical prowess, mental and emotional stability, quick thinking skills, situational awareness, shooting skills, and every other skill specific to SWAT operations. What this essentially means is that SWAT operators are expected to be faster, smarter and more capable than the average cop. Where most officers would shoot, and shoot a great many rounds, they are expected to be able to take the extra few seconds—or fractions of a second—necessary to more fully and accurately analyze any situation before shooting. And when they shoot, they are expected to do it with far greater restraint and accuracy than most officers.

Note the Navy SEAL who took out Osama Bin Laden with two rounds and two rounds only, one to the chest, one to the head. This is a classic example of cool, perfect shot placement under stress, and is precisely the sort of thing SWAT troops are supposed to be able to do. After all, if they are no better at this sort of thing than the average street cop, all that has been done is to give average street cops more destructive, longer ranged weapons.

In recognition of the generally greater danger SWAT personnel face when properly employed, most teams are armed with fully automatic weapons, such as the ubiquitous H&K MP5 in 9mm. Many also use AR-15 variant carbines in .223 with 16” or shorter barrels. So arming SWAT teams is reasonable and necessary—again, if they are properly employed—but it is also a contributing factor to many potential problems.

Many people assume that the police are generally expert shots. Not so. Many officers aren’t particularly fond of guns, and a surprising number own no firearms other than their issued handgun. Because ammunition is expensive, particularly when one is equipping an entire police force, most Law Enforcement Organizations (LEOs) tend to hold qualifications only once a year. The courses of fire for such qualifications tend to be relatively easy, require less than 50 rounds, and qualifying scores are generous. Officers are often allowed to shoot as many times as necessary to achieve a barely passing score. Most LEOs do not provide practice ammunition for their officers, so a great many officers only practice with their handguns consists of their annual qualification shoot. They may, or may not, clean their weapons thereafter. A great many civilians are far more proficient than most police officers simply because they are more interested in firearms and shooting, and are willing to take the time to practice.

During my police days, my most effective training was that I undertook on my own time and money, taking courses such as those offered by Chuck Taylor, among others, where I learned proper submachine gun handling and tactical employment. I am, in fact, certified by Taylor’s American Small Arms Academy to teach, among other things, the submachine gun. I also hold NRA training certification. No such training was available though my LEO which simply could not afford it, particularly for an entire SWAT team.

It is at least in part in recognition of this reality that SWAT teams try to obtain advanced training, and sufficient time and money to practice—a great deal--with their weapons. Exposed only to cinematic machine gun handling, many people have formed a very wrong idea of the proper employment of submachine guns, which consists primarily of spraying magazines of ammunition with a seemingly endless number of rounds from the hip, ventilating the landscape as far as the eye can see. In reality, such weapons should virtually always be employed only from the shoulder, sights must be used, and only two to three round bursts employed. With proper training, this is much faster and far more accurate. In SWAT missions, putting the minimum number of rounds necessary precisely on target at precisely the right moment with no margin for error is the expected level of performance. In fact, many real pros consider any mission where they had to fire a single round a failure. They understand that this will certainly not always be possible, but it is their goal.

Most LEOs cannot afford a full-time, dedicated SWAT team. There is simply not sufficient call for it, and it is far too expensive. They deal with this by appointing various officers from various bureaus to a team, equipping them as they can afford, and indulging in what training they can afford. This is a significant limitation because when the team trains, all of those officers are not doing their usual duties, which often requires calling in off-duty officers to work overtime shifts to cover for missing SWAT troops. Many agencies try to minimize this significant problem by forming joint teams comprised of officers from two or more local agencies. While this helps somewhat with costs, it produces unique problems in terms of arguments over authority, leadership, cost sharing, and a variety of other issues.

The paramilitary structure of LEOs can also interfere with proper staffing of a SWAT team. Ideally, because of the very nature of such teams and the situations for which they should be employed, the most qualified people, regardless of their daily rank or position, should be placed in each and every team position, from leadership positions, to snipers. Unfortunately, rank has its privileges, and people with rank are often placed in leadership positions commensurate with their rank in their LEO while far more capable people are passed over entirely or relegated to entry or perimeter team duties. I know of one team that appointed as its primary sniper—they’re most commonly called “marksmen” or something similarly non-threatening sounding—a detective who had never before fired a rifle, and whose entry level skill was far less than that of many available officers. It is this odd internal dynamic that might see a former special forces troop expert in small unit tactics, relegated to the most distant position on a perimeter or doing coffee and sandwich runs for the command post. Less competent and experienced "leaders" tend not to want far more experienced and capable underlings too close lest they look bad by comparison.

Beyond the enormous expense of time and salary for training a team is the cost of equipment. To equip a single operator with body armor, handgun, submachine gun, helmet, eyewear, radio and proper headset, Nomex protective gear, uniform, boots, and the various other necessary items can easily run to $5000.00 and more. In LEOS where shift supervisors are constantly being brow-beaten over an extra hour or two of necessary and justifiable overtime—virtually every LEO in America--such costs might as well be $500,000.00.

SWAT teams should generally be used only for high-risk situations requiring specific skills and equipment not available to a patrol force. However, many agencies have, for many years, used them for serving high-risk warrants, including arrest warrants for violent felons, and general search warrants in drug cases. While SWAT guys love to don their gear and practice their craft in the real world, this tends to develop a mindset within an agency that makes use of SWAT teams routine rather than rare. This can lead to complacency, which any competent cop can explain is potentially deadly. Particularly in drug cases, there is a heightened risk of bad information, which can lead to teams assaulting the wrong homes and even killing the wrong people. Police lore is full of such true stories, which are taught as cautionary tales in competent SWAT training.

Remember this: Your local SWAT team responding to a hostage situation in a bank where your wife works as a teller may be a highly trained, unified, competent group of operators expert in the use of their first-rate equipment and professional tactics. More likely, they’re a group of well-meaning, undertrained and underequipped cops with uninformed and inexperienced leadership. Their knowledge and skill levels will likely vary widely, and in fact, some may be less capable than many street cops. Any combination is possible, but the operator coming through the bank door with an MP5 may be expert in its use, or he may have only fired 50 rounds through the weapon a year ago at the last qualification, and have no real idea where its actual point of aim is today.


I will not go into great detail here on specific SWAT tactics, as most importantly, the bad guys just don’t need to know. But secondarily, such information is available to those with a need to know, and in far greater detail that it is possible for me to provide in this single article.

Generally, SWAT teams are divided into command, assault, sniper and perimeter elements. The command element commonly includes the leader(s) of the team who will be responsible for making tactical plans and giving tactical orders. The sniper element will normally consist of a sniper and spotter, hopefully trained to function as two bodies sharing the same mind. Many teams can afford only one such team (a competent rifle can easily cost $3000.00 alone). If one of the members of the team is sick or unreachable when a call-out occurs, someone less trained and experienced will have to fill in—or not. The perimeter team’s job is to establish a safe perimeter around the target building or area and keep unwanted people out and the bad guys in.

It is the entry team that is of greatest interest to us here. Such elements commonly consist of an operator leading with a heavy, bullet-resistant shield or “bunker” as it is sometimes called. One or two operators are designated to break open doors using specialized tools. As soon as a door is opened, a “stack” immediately enters. A “stack” commonly consists of several men—usually three or four in addition to the man with the shield—following single file on each other’s heels through the doorway. In such stacks, operators commonly place one hand on the shoulder of the man in front of them, allowing them to stay together and to communicate readiness with a simple squeeze passed up the stack as they begin.

All police officers are taught to avoid the “fatal funnel,” or placing them selves in a narrow, tight area where it is easy for bad guys to shoot them. Being silhouetted in a doorframe is a classic example, as is being stacked up in a narrow hallway. If one can’t avoid such areas, it is imperative to minimize the time spent in them.

Each member of the “stack” has a specific area of responsibility, a portion of the space(s) they will enter they are responsible for checking out visually. Only they are authorized to engage—shoot—potential threats in their area of responsibility. This is essential because there can easily be more than one threat in more than one place. If an entire stack focuses or fires on the first perceived threat, the entire team may be wiped out by an unseen shooter. In addition, shooting in enclosed spaces is extraordinarily loud. Officers must be careful not to inadvertently deafen each other, or blind each other with the muzzle flash of a weapon fired too close to the eyes of a fellow officer. This kind of discipline requires constant training and conditioning and cool thinking under fire.

A significant part of training for entry teams and SWAT teams in general involves “deconfliction,” or muzzle awareness. Any police officer can attest to the fact that it is surprisingly easy to unintentionally point weapons at other people. In high stress situations where many people simultaneously occupy the same small place, particularly when sound and rapid movement in an unfamiliar area are also present, it is ridiculously easy to make deadly mistakes. By assigning very specific areas of responsibility, areas from which an operator’s muzzle should not stray, the possibility of accidently shooting another operator, rather than a bad guy, is minimized. It is minimized, but always a real danger, and such shootings are far more common than the police are comfortable admitting. Officers are also taught to keep their trigger fingers “in register,” or outside the trigger guard of their weapons, off the trigger, in direct contact with the frame or receiver of their weapons, until milliseconds before it is necessary to fire. This too minimizes the risk of accidental or unintentional discharges (ADs).

Generally, the stack’s duties consist of “clearing” every potential danger area in a structure. They do this by going room to room, never turning their backs—so to speak—on un-cleared rooms or areas, securing—by whatever means necessary—any hostiles. Only when the entire structure has been cleared, do other officers enter and conduct a search. Even so, no one relaxes prematurely. Properly done, a normally sized, three bedroom home may be properly cleared within a few minutes.

In some particularly dangerous cases, the stack will be preceded by one or more “flashbangs.” These are specialized hand grenades, which do not produce fragmentation, but a brilliant flash of light and very loud report, both effects being magnified by close quarters. The advantage of these devices is that they can render bad guys senseless long enough for the police to subdue them with little risk to themselves. The disadvantages are that if they detonate too close to a bad guy, they can seriously injure or kill them, and they can start fires.

Once a dynamic entry has begun, it must not hesitate. The stack must enter with speed and determination to surprise and overwhelm any resistance. Particularly in serving drug search warrants, one immediate goal is to prevent the destruction of evidence, which might be easily flushed down a toilet, for example. To that end, retreat or hesitation is not an option.

If anyone is injured, SWAT operators, as police officers, have the same duty to see that they receive aid as quickly as safety will allow.


Every aspect of search and seizure is governed by the Fourth Amendment, which states:

“The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”

Despite the claims of some of the self-appointed “elite” that the language of the late 1700s cannot be read or understood by the modern liberal mind, this, like the rest of the Bill of Rights, is quite clear. If the police want to search someone’s home, they need a warrant. To get a warrant, they must have probable cause, which is defined as facts or circumstances that would lead a reasonable police officer to conclude that a crime has been committed and that a specific person has committed it. A vague, general suspicion or inference is not probable cause. Saying for instance that Joe is a drug dealer and that Steve has been seen in Joe’s company does not implicate Steve in the drug trade absent specific evidence of his involvement.

To obtain a warrant, an officer must write a complete affidavit, which, as the Fourth Amendment so clearly states, describes his probable cause, and which particularly describes the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized. “Particularly” is an important word. Not only is it necessary to, for example, provide the address of a home to be searched, the home itself should be carefully described. If, for example, the SWAT team shows up at 1506 Walnut Street to search a two story red brick home with a detached single car garage and finds instead a single story ranch, painted tan with brown trim and no garage, they know something is very wrong. This is not uncommon, particularly with drug cases. Insufficient probable cause or vague descriptions will usually cause a judge, who must review each affidavit and approve each warrant, to refuse to issue a warrant.

There are exceptions to the warrant requirement, such as hot pursuit or exigent circumstances. In this case, the police apparently had a warrant. In servicing warrants, officers must commonly knock, clearly identify themselves and their purpose, and allow sufficient time for the occupants to respond. No-knock warrants may be granted, but only upon a convincing showing of specific danger and need.

Keep in mind that if anyone lies to obtain a warrant, everything that occurs as a result of the service of the faulty warrant may be tainted and many not be used in court. However, generally speaking, officers who are acting on good faith, who have no reason to believe that the warrant under which they are acting is faulty, are generally not legally liable. This, of course, does not excuse criminal behavior, negligence or incompetence.

The use of confidential informants in drug cases is always problematic. Such people are virtually always criminals and drug users and are inherently unreliable. Even so, they are often the only way to successfully penetrate drug operations. Professional, capable judges are always suspicious of such people and commonly require a higher standard of proof than just the word of a CI.

Search warrants must generally be served during the daytime, and within a specific, brief window of time, usually within 24 hours of their issuance. A judge may grant exceptions, but they must be spelled out in the warrant. After the warrant has been served, officers are required to promptly file a “return,” which is an after action report that specifically describes everything found and seized as a result of the warrant. Lying on any portion of the related paperwork is perjury, a serious criminal offense, usually a felony.

Prior to searching any home, particularly if a forced entry is likely, professional teams will have conducted sufficient surveillance, and will have produced detailed diagrams of the interior of the home, which will include likely locations of any firearms or defensive preparations, and hiding/storage places of any drugs. They will want to know how many people are usually in the home, their identities and everything about them. Even if the police cannot get inside a home, a great deal may be learned from merely observing the home and the manner in which it is constructed. Remember that professional teams try to avoid forced or “dynamic” entries because of the great danger involved. Professionals seek, prior to searching, to isolate and capture the primary suspect outside the home whenever possible. This is why careful surveillance and accurate information is so important; it can greatly lessen the risk to everyone involved.


Police officers may use deadly force when there is an imminent threat of serious bodily injury or death to them selves or another. It cannot be a possible threat that might manifest itself within the next few minutes. It must be obvious, real and about to happen at the instant that deadly force was used. If these conditions exist, an officer may use whatever force is necessary to stop the bad guy from doing whatever gave the officer justification to use deadly force in the first place. If the bad guy dies as a result of the application of that force, bad for him, but the police always shoot to stop, never to kill. If they shoot effectively—and SWAT teams are supposed to always shoot effectively and with the minimum expenditure of ammunition—the bad guy will usually be killed, but he will surely be stopped.

If a single 9mm round from an officer’s handgun stops the bad guy, that’s a good thing. If five rounds from a shotgun are reasonably required, that’s perfectly permissible under the law. However, the second a bad guy ceases to be a threat, all shooting must stop. The law--to say nothing of professionalism, common sense and decency--does not allow gratuitous magazine emptying or “me too” shooting when the danger has clearly passed.

In such circumstances, some will claim that when confronted by someone holding a gun, or even when the police suspect someone is armed—as in the Erik Scott case—the police may blithely fire away. This is dangerous nonsense. Remember that SWAT operators should be better trained and more experienced than their patrol brethren. They are expected to be able to wait those few fractions of a second longer before shooting necessary to be certain that shooting is absolutely required. In a nation with a Second Amendment, and where citizens may carry concealed handguns in most states, police officers simply cannot shoot anyone seen holding a weapon. In fact, officers deal with people who are openly carrying weapons, or who are carrying concealed weapons, every day without injuring anyone. Was this not true, our streets would be littered with the bodies of law-abiding people shot by panicky cops who had no legal reason to be certain of a threat before emptying their weapons.

Remember, again, that a SWAT team making a dynamic entry understands that citizens within might very well mistake them for home invaders and might meet them with firearms in their hands. Merely holding a firearm, or even pointing it in their general direction, does not automatically constitute an imminent threat of serious bodily injury or death, particularly for officers wearing highly effective body armor behind a bullet resistant shield. Remember too that SWAT operators are supposed to be more capable of correctly making just this kind of split second judgment.

Professional teams are extensively debriefed after each mission. Each and every discrepancy is minutely analyzed and discussed. An officer firing when he might have avoided it, or firing more than reasonably required, is in trouble. An officer crossing the bodies of his teammates with the muzzle of his weapon because he was distracted and didn’t cover his area of responsibility is likewise in trouble. SWAT teams work for perfection, but understand that human beings seldom reach it.


With all of these factors in mind, let’s analyze the 54 second video clip released by the Pima County SO. The video seems to have been shot from a helmet-mounted camera worn by an officer in the back seat of a vehicle parked in the driveway of the Guerena home. The vehicle is apparently parked behind another vehicle, which is directly in front of the garage. Throughout the video, music, apparently from the radio in the police vehicle, can be heard. As the officers are preparing to enter, I can hear them speaking, but for whatever reason, most of what they say is unintelligible. No doubt, others using other equipment might be able to more clearly hear what is being said.

Before I begin a second by second breakdown of the action, some general observations. Not counting the two officers who are apparently in the vehicle—one in the driver’s seat clearly in the view of the camera as the video begins and the officer recording the incident—there are as many as seven officers clustered around the door and front yard of the home. And I do mean clustered, as in having no apparently coherent organization. In fact, throughout the tape, they appear to be more or less constantly shifting their positions, apparently aimlessly.

The viewpoint of the camera is apparently through the left side, back window of the police vehicle and is slightly to the right of the plane of the front door of the home. Immediately to the front of the police vehicle is a garage, to the left of that, the front door, and to the left of that, what appears to be a living room picture window. It is bright daylight. The camera appears to be approximately 25 feet from the front door of the home.

The officers making a sort of entry can generally be seen only from the back and the camera is somewhat shaky throughout the clip. Brief glimpses of the faces of a few of the officers are possible, but it is very difficult, perhaps impossible to identify them. Keep in mind that the time frames are based on the time stamp running with the video, so I may be off by fractions of a second here and there.


Seconds 0-8: The clip begins with the camera focusing on an officer in tactical gear and helmet in the front seat of a police vehicle. The field of view shifts around, finally settling, shakily, on a consistent view of the front of the home and of the approximately seven officers in tactical uniforms and gear in the front yard, driveway and near the front door. An officer with a bullet-resistant shield is consistently standing, more or less, in front of the door.

5: The police vehicle siren begins.

7: It stops for about a half second and begins again.

14: The siren ceases. The siren sounds very much like a car alarm, and is not very loud, even within the vehicle that is apparently broadcasting the sound. It has sounded, with a brief interruption, for only about nine seconds.

15: An officer can be heard saying “do it.”

17: An officer says “bang, bang, bang,” apparently over the radio. It’s not clear what he means or why he is saying this.

26: An officer holding a large, purpose-built pry bar, approaches the door and knocks lightly several times. He immediately retreats backward toward the garage.

33: An officer advances and apparently kicks the door open (officers standing in the way obscure the action, but the pry bar is apparently not used). That officer withdraws to the area of the garage. Officers immediately start moving around, but in no organized fashion. There is no stack, and no one seems to have any idea what to do. There is no organized attempt at a dynamic entry.

38: At this point, it appears that another officer actually enters the home to the right of the officer holding the shield. It is difficult to be sure, because various officers shift directly in and out of the view of the camera, which does not change. The shield-holding officer stands in the doorway, but does not enter. Another officer is standing to the left of the officer with the shield. He too does not enter, but only points his weapon into the home through the doorway. Again, officers are apparently speaking, but I cannot make out what they are saying.

40: Shots start, and are apparently a combination of semi-automatic and automatic fire. No muzzle flashes are visible and it is impossible to tell exactly who is firing. In addition, their specific weapons are not visible. Two officers immediately retreat out of the frame of the camera, to the right, in front of the garage. This leaves the officer who is apparently inside the house, the officer holding the shield who is blocking the doorway and the officer leaning over his left shoulder, at the left side of the doorway, leaning in, apparently firing. It appears that the officer with the shield is armed only with a handgun (normal procedure when carrying a shield) while the others are armed with long guns of various types. I can make out the distinct reports of at least three weapons.

Almost immediately, an officer in the background, who was closer to the camera, has slung his long gun behind his back. He draws his handgun, and runs to the front door.

44: Positioning himself between the officer holding the shield and the officer on the left, he sticks his handgun between them, apparently one-handed, and begins to fire. By this time, the officer holding the shield can be clearly seen to be on his back on the ground in the doorway. His shield is now oriented so that it is between him and the camera.

48: The shooting stops. The officers seem disoriented, not knowing what to do. There are no apparent attempts to reload. Only the three who remained outside are visible. The officer who apparently entered, ahead of the shield man, is not visible.

50: One final round is fired. It’s not possible to tell who fires it or why. The camera quickly shifts downward, away from the scene of the shooting, and the video stops at 54 seconds.


(1) There appears to be no organization at all. The officers are not organized into an entry stack, they are not apparently taking pre-determined positions, and they mill about, apparently not knowing what should happen next.

(2) They are apparently announcing themselves, but their words are muted. It would be entirely possible for people in the home to be unable to hear what they are saying.

(3) The activation of the siren appears to be uncoordinated with the action at the door. I cannot hear any radio traffic asking for such activation, and there are no visual signals requesting it. If the residents heard it at all, it could be easily mistaken for a car alarm.

(4) Music, apparently playing in the police vehicle, is a very disturbing sign. It indicates a lack of training and concentration that would be potentially deadly in any SWAT operation. This is an amazing bit of foolishness. It is hard enough to clearly hear radio traffic and voices in fast moving, stressful situations. Adding extraneous music is incredibly stupid and dangerous.

(5) Whoever knocks does so very quietly and makes only 4-5 knocks. It’s not possible to tell whether the home has a doorbell, but from the knock to the kick that opens the door only about seven seconds elapse, not nearly enough time for any resident to answer the knock even if they did hear it.

The evidence currently suggests that Vanessa Guerena, Jose’s wife, spotted armed men roaming about the yard. Telling Jose, he directed her to hide in a closet with their four year old child, and taking up an AR-15, crouched in a hallway to intercept what he likely thought were armed home invaders. The exact time frame of these actions is currently unknown.

That the officers take the time to knock and sound a siren indicates that they did not consider time to be of the essence. They were apparently not concerned that the residents of the home would be armed and waiting for them, or that they might be trying to dispose of evidence. Had this been the case, they would have obtained a no-knock warrant and entered without warning, maximizing shock and surprise and minimizing the danger. As it is, their actions indicate a poor state of planning and readiness, haphazardly combining elements of a low-risk warrant service-albeit with a fully armed SWAT team, which makes no sense—and a high-risk, no-knock entry, for which a SWAT team makes sense.

(6) When the door is kicked open, the officer who apparently opened the door has to hastily retreat through several other officers, indicating very poor planning. In proper dynamic entries, the breaching officer or officers are positioned so that they can immediately swing out of the way without obstructing others, allowing the stack to immediately enter. Here, no one moves toward the door in a coordinated manner.

(7) After the door swings open, it takes about five seconds for an officer to apparently enter the door on the right, the shield man to stand in the doorway, blocking it, and the officer on the left of the door to lean in and point his weapon into the home.

(8) An important consideration here is that the officers were standing in bright sunlight. Upon entering, or looking into the home, unless they took appropriate steps to compensate, their vision would be compromised. Anyone who has been outside in bright sunlight and stepped into a building without lights on understands what I’m talking about. It is likely that when they saw Guerena, and the specifics of that encounter are far from clear, they saw only a dark and/or indistinct outline. It is impossible to see if the officers are wearing goggles or dark glasses, which would allow them to see clearly in a darkened dwelling upon entry, but there is no apparent sign of them adjusting such eyewear off their eyes as they stand in the doorway. It is entirely possible that those who fired had no real idea why they were firing because they could not clearly see the “threat” that was drawing their fire.

(9) The shooting begins with 4-5 evenly spaced shots, apparently on semi-automatic. Those shots are quickly joined by a wild melee of fire which lasts about eight seconds, followed by a two second silence and one final shot. According to media accounts, the SWAT team “leader” said that the officers involved exhausted their ammunition. That’s not at all hard to believe, and it is possible that more than 71 rounds were fired.

What is absolutely clear is that the firing was not professionally done. Professional operators fire in two-three rounds bursts, take the milliseconds necessary to asses whether their fire has had the desired effect, and fire again, in a carefully controlled, highly accurate manner, only if necessary. What I heard on the video was panicky fire. Two officers heard the first firing, and they simply opened up and held their triggers down, or kept pulling the trigger, until their bolts locked back, their magazines having been emptied. No doubt their trigger fingers were still jerking even then.

Considering the nature and volume of fire, it is amazing that Guerena was hit some 60 times. It is also amazing that the entire neighborhood was not ventilated. Apparently at least one round did strike a neighboring home—which indicates that the police recognized the reckless manner of their fusillade sufficiently to check out the surrounding area—which caused to police to break into that home to ensure they hadn’t killed anyone. Apparently, they were lucky and did not. It is equally amazing that they did not shoot each other.

UPDATE 052911, 1329 CT: According to a more recent local news story, the medical examiner has reported that Guerena was hit not 60 times as originally suggested by doctors, but only 22 times. This is far more in line with common results of police shootings where most rounds fired do not hit their intended targets. This is also far more in line with what would be expected of the wild and uncontrolled fire of the SWAT shooters in this particular incident, particularly those firing on full-auto. Highly skilled operators can control fully automatic fire in a submachine gun or light carbine such as the AR-15, untrained operators cannot. In any case, carefully controlled and aimed short bursts are always preferred. Police officers are directly responsible for each and every bullet they fire. In this case, nearly 70% of the rounds fired by the police missed. This might make more likely my contention that the officer's vision was compromised and that at least some of them had no real idea of their target or why they were shooting at it, other than the knowledge that one of their number was initially shooting at something. As shocking as all of this might be, the hit rate is about average for police shootings. SWAT teams should do much better. Knowing this, it is even more incredible that the officers did not shoot Mrs. Guerena, her child, themselves, or anyone else in the neighborhood.

(10) That the shield man never actually entered the home, but merely stood in the doorway, perfectly silhouetted, in the very center of a textbook fatal funnel speaks very poorly of the team’s training and experience. It’s not clear how he ended up on his back in that doorway. Did he trip and fall? Perhaps he was knocked off his feet by his teammates, eager to get in on the action. It is also possible that the fourth officer who hastily ran up to the door and thrust his handgun between two of his fellow officers may have fired it so closely to the head and face of the shield man that he was momentarily stunned--or injured--and knocked off his feet. Other officers block the view of the camera, so it is not, from the video alone, possible to know what happened.

(11) Perhaps the most egregious and telling indicator of little or no training, planning, experience and ability is the officer who runs to the doorway, thrusts his handgun between two fellow officers, likely shooting very close to their ears and eyes, to fire off some “me too” rounds. It is highly unlikely that this officer could have had any idea of his target, if he saw one at all. To be completely fair, he was probably acting as police officers do, tending toward action rather than inaction, but proper SWAT training teaches only appropriate, effective action. There is absolutely no room for “me too” shooting, on the street or during SWAT operations.

(12) It is not, of course, possible to know what the officers did prior to the video, but they had obviously been there for at least a short time before the videotaping began.


The information available through media accounts does not present clear probable cause for a search of Guerena’s home. One media account noted:

“The reports state Jose Guerena; his brother, Alejandro; and Jose Celaya were named as suspects in briefings given to officers before the search warrants were served. Many of the officers' reports refer to the sheriff's long-term drug investigation as the reason for the search warrants.

Reports show about $100,000 in cash, marijuana and firearms were seized that morning from the four homes that were searched.

Items found in Jose Guerena's house included: a Colt .38-caliber handgun, paperwork, tax returns, insurance papers, bank statements and a bank card, reports showed.

Another report said detectives found body armor in a hallway closet and a U.S. Border Patrol hat in the garage.”

Notice that there is no information to indicate that any drugs or money were found in Guerena’s home, or that Guerena or his home, were in any way directly related to criminal activity. In fact, the police have, to date, not released the search warrant affidavit, warrant and return for Guerena’s home. However, there is no evidence to indicate that they found anything at all illegal in Guerena’s home. If they had, considering the public and Internet attention this case is generating, they surely would have made it public. Any drug case they were working has long been blown. Secrecy is no longer an issue.

None of the items listed as having been found in Guerena’s home are illegal, or indeed, unusual, particularly for a former Marine who had served two combat tours. One reason that the warrant information has not been released is likely that it was non-specific. In other words, the grounds for searching Guerena’s home may have been shaky at best.

Another media reports notes:

“According to a report, a detective interviewing Jose Guerena's younger brother, Jesus Gerardo Guerena, asked him about the slayings of Manuel and Cynthia Orozco. Jesus Guerena said he knew the couple because they were related to his brother Alejandro's wife.

According to Star archives, Manuel and Cynthia Orozco were killed during a home invasion in March 2010.”

This seems to indicate the police straining to find justification for SWAT involvement in the search, to say nothing of justifying the search itself. Guerena’s younger brother knew two people killed in a 2010 home invasion because they were related to his brother’s wife? Hopefully this is not the extent of the police’s justification for the search, or of Guerena’s being “linked to a double homicide.”

Very disturbing is the fact that the police did not allow Guerena medical help for about an hour and a quarter. In fact, they may not have entered the home after their fusillade of fire, instead withdrawing and eventually sending in a robot to poke and prod Guerena to make sure he was dead. That the SWAT team apparently did not immediately follow up their fire and completely clear the home is further, damning evidence of unbelievably poor leadership and execution. For those who have experience in such matters, the apparent behavior of the police is simply mind-boggling.

What is also unknown is how the police handled the aftermath of the shooting. Officer involved shootings are probably the most demanding situations officers face. The need for absolute perfection in the handling and collection of evidence, the interviewing of witnesses and involved officers, even the precise accounting for each round fired and its final resting place—a nightmare in this case—is of the utmost importance. The slightest deviation from proper procedure can indicate incompetence, cover-up or both.

As you read further accounts of this situation keep in mind that the actions of the police must be judged only on what they knew, or reasonably should have known, when they arrived to serve the warrant that morning. Post-shooting attempts to paint Guerena as the worlds most dangerous drug dealer and homicidal maniac (who, faced with four armed men he likely recognized as police did not take his weapon off safe) mean nothing at all, other than that the police are furiously spinning to justify what may turn out to be unjustifiable.

I don’t have all the facts. No one does. But based on the video, and what is currently known, it is very hard indeed to see how the police acted with anything less than amazing incompetence, incompetence that cost the life of a former Marine, a man who was apparently a solid citizen working hard in a copper mine to provide for his young family.

Update Be sure to read Part 2 of this analysis.

Posted by MikeM at May 28, 2011 03:16 PM

One thing I noticed about that video is how much it doesnt show. The officer in question is well behind the party knocking down the door, and he is nowhere near enough to see what the officers at the door are firing at, much less see what, if anything, Jose Guerena is, or is not, doing.

The authorities in this case are trying to give us the impression they are being open about the incident, when in actual fact they are demonstrating how to lie with video.

Empty assertions with meaningless video, Sgt. Friday would have words for certain people, and they wouldn't be, "Good work, keep it up."

Posted by: Alan Kellogg at May 28, 2011 11:44 PM

"Another report said detectives found body armor in a hallway closet and a U.S. Border Patrol hat in the garage.”

??!! So that's the so-called 'part of a police uniform' the cops are claiming supports the theory the dead Marine was part of a home invasion crew?

What do you bet this "U.S. Border Patrol hat" turns out to be nothing more than what's known as a campaign hat.

just google "campaign hat" to see what I mean

Posted by: Brad at May 29, 2011 12:04 AM

Nicely done. Seems consistent with the evidence. I'm told that if you run the entire tape, which runs for a LONG time, you'll hear the SWAT guys all working on getting their stories straight. Which oddly enough various official sources denied happening.

Apparently Dupnik had the warrants sealed 4 days after the raid, just before they admitted that the guy's rife was on safe the entire time. I'm curious how long it takes Dupnik and his crack investigators to pin this on Palin.

Posted by: Kevin at May 29, 2011 01:08 AM

"SWAT teams should generally be used only for high-risk situations requiring specific skills and equipment not available to a patrol force."

I reside in the area. a few days later then this incident, the PCSO Swat team was used to serve an eviction notice on a 66 year old man in a foreclosure. The man commited suicide. Eviction notices, a dangerous situation, I think not.
Our "esteemed" sherrif has shown his true leadership since the January 8, 2001 shooting, non-existent!

Posted by: Larry at May 29, 2011 10:23 AM


Are you speaking of McHugh, who shot at DETECTIVES attempting to serve an eviction notice, and THEN the SWAT team was called to deal with him - only to find out McHugh shot himself before the SWAT team ever got there???

You should explain to Florida Deputy 'Robert Hugh Milligan' how serving eviction notices are not "dangerous"....oh wait you can't, as he was killed delivering that piece of paper.

Posted by: Buck Turgidson at May 29, 2011 12:49 PM

this is just one more case of the police serving and protecting, ...themselves.

Posted by: rumcrook at May 29, 2011 07:14 PM

Another case of dipstick Dupnik incompetence. But wait, we can't lay blame totally at his feet. The judge who signed the "no knock" order must share the blame. I also wonder what kind of investigation we'll egt out of the ABI or that clown Holder. After all the victim wasn't white but rather Hispanic so one would think he'd be all over it but you haven't heard a word. Most likely because teh person was ex-military. The whole group should be in prison and teh key thrown away. If Dipstick didn't have anything to hide why'd he ahve the record sealed??

Posted by: A_Nobody at May 30, 2011 10:31 AM

["If Dipstick didn't have anything to hide why'd he ahve the record sealed??"]

Since it was a 'search warrant' and not an 'arrest warrant', maybe it's a continuing investigation?? The evil Sheriff would have had to list what they were looking for when the warrant application was filed and delivered to the evil Judge, hence, if it is an ongoing they don't want other players knowing what they 'really' have.

BTW, was it in fact a "no-knock" warrant? They are extremely difficult to procure from Judges and Magistrates, at least it is in the 11th Circuit Southern District.

Posted by: Buck Turgidson at May 30, 2011 11:54 AM

Very good article. What blogs are for.

Thank you, sir.

Posted by: Billy Beck at May 30, 2011 03:40 PM

Dear Buck:

As the search warrant and all related documents have been sealed, it's not possible to know if the warrant was a no-knock. However, the actions of the SWAT team would certainly suggest that it was not, and as I noted, the presence of the SWAT team for a no-knock warrant may, in itself be revealing. Perhaps the withholding of the warrant and related information is being done to protect involved people, but that is unlikely. In drug investigations, particularly the kind of low level, local investigations this one appears to be, when warrants are served, confidentiality and secrecy are over. Warrants are generally never served unless and until the police are ready to end the case and make arrests.

The other possibility is that the affidavit contains embarrassing information or omissions, but until the related documents are available for public inspection, this won't be known with certainty either.

Posted by: Mike Mc at May 30, 2011 06:51 PM

Dear Billy Beck:

Thank you; most kind.

Posted by: Mike Mc at May 30, 2011 06:52 PM


Given that the video clearly shows an officer knocking on Guerena's door following a brief activation of a vehicle siren in the driveway, I think we can say with certainty this was NOT a no-knock warrant. This is the basis of OBSERVATION #5 above, which wonders at the use of SWAT to serve a warrant which did not meet the requirements for no-knock status. Why use the overwhelming firepower--and the increased potential for violence--a SWAT team represents when the situation clearly did not meet the judge's requirements for a no-knock warrant? This is especially puzzling when one considers the reports all say the police found exactly what they were there to find, and none of what they found was illegal.

Further, if there IS, in fact, an ongoing investigation At this point, I would think any suspects involved with the Guerena's are surely long gone, taking with them the need for secrecy to protect a "continuing investigation." Even if that's not the case, I believe a strong argument could be made that protecting any further investigation should be a lower priority than the need to clarify a police action that's looking more and more like Keystone cops, minus the humor...

Posted by: Mark at May 30, 2011 07:34 PM

Yeah, alot of people are forgetting the siren. No one confuses home invasion when police sirens are blasting outside.

Posted by: Federale at May 30, 2011 07:59 PM

Federale - Ah, yes, the 8 second siren that you keep blathering about. As if this is a hall pass for illegal entry and murder.

Posted by: RW at May 30, 2011 09:59 PM

I could not believe what a goat rope that "entry" was. Any scratch team of airsoft kiddies from randomly selected YouTube videos could have done as well or better.

It was like the Geheimestaatspolezei meets the Keystone Kops...

Posted by: Tam at May 30, 2011 11:10 PM

Thanks! As an ex-officer do you think that this sort of thing is happening more and more often or are we simply more connected so we hear about it more often?

Posted by: Pierre at May 30, 2011 11:30 PM

Dear Pierre:

Good question indeed. The police have always made mistakes--small in relation to the number of things they do right, thank goodness-- but over the last few decades some things have changed. More and more agencies have SWAT teams, which likely means more and more teams without proper training which may translate into more and more damaging mistakes. In addition, post-Rathergate, the Blogosphere has become a primary source of news and analysis, particularly where the mistakes of government are concerned.

I suspect that these--and perhaps other factors--contribute, but I don't have hard and fast statistics on this matter. Best guess; there are more and we're more aware of them. I could, of course, be wrong, but I wonder to what degree the speed of the Net contributes to police executives going into bunker mode because they have less and less time to think about how to deal with what are obviously serious mistakes.

Posted by: Mike Mc at May 31, 2011 12:48 AM

Perhaps the "Border Patrol Hat" was one of those you can buy in almost any police or mil-surplus catalog.

If that is justification, I have hats from multiple PD's, Coast Guard, Navy, Army, Marines, Air Force, and other Federal agencies. . . Does that mean I have provided sufficient probable cause for a search warrant?

And what about the judge that signed off on the warrant?

Posted by: kilroyjc at May 31, 2011 06:45 AM

Good post - I had the same reaction to the video. This is incompetence on a grand scale.

After the shooting just petered out, the cops all stood their wondering what to do. Nobody even yelled "clear". Unbelievable.

Posted by: Old Soldier at May 31, 2011 08:02 AM

This happens all too often. Here is a map showing botched SWAT team raids:


Posted by: Popgun at May 31, 2011 08:18 AM

Excellent job.

You can't use Oops as an excuse here. Not even if you extend the Oops to command staff, who should have known what they had and did not have in terms of capabilities of their "team."

Clearly the events documented by the video indicate that the raid was regarded by personnel as routine and such behavior further indicates, that it was habit forming. If these personnel had training, they forgot all of it and were never drilled in it on a regular basis or we would see signs of it on the video. Those signs are non-existent.

What does exist are questions about why an innocent man was killed in his own home by police acting under a 'Blanket" warrant. I want to know who issued that warrant, who wrote the affidavit for the warrant and why PCSO needs to shift and squirm and spin and lie.

But we all know why they are doing that don't we.

PCSO used to be a very professional organization, in spite of the democratic 'machine" that keeps getting elected in that county. However it always has been a 'brown nose' organization within the 'management levels.' Go figure but you can bet that everyone within are holding their collective breaths, waiting for this to go away. The media down there are also connected to the 'machine', so no guesses as to who will be thrown under the bus but you can bet it will be the lowest level possible. unless those personnel have 'protective' information they are holding for a rainy day.

Yup. It's always been that kind of an organization as well.

Posted by: PooDoo at May 31, 2011 09:06 AM

The "Border Patrol Hat" in question most likely came from either an acquaintance in the Border Patrol either in his state or Iraq / Afghanistan if he did any tours there. I have received numerous items with the Border Patrol logo on them while in Iraq and in my home state. As for the Body Armor, it is quite easily obtained in the same manner. No rules prohibit the shipping of non-military Body Armor out of Iraq / Afghanistan via the military postal system. At least not when I was there…

Posted by: SCM at May 31, 2011 09:49 AM

The activities at the door indeed indicate it was not a no-knock warrant. However, given that the knocking was apparently very soft (if audible at all to the occupants), and followed very quickly by the "entry", it looks to me as the SWAT team was effectively converting it to a no-knock raid by not actually knocking. They put on a show for the camera to cover for the fact. By what else the tape shows, these guys aren't too sharp.

Posted by: Mr Evilwrench at May 31, 2011 10:43 AM

This is an excellent and educational analysis of the video, thank you for putting the time and effort into it.

Re: Observation 9: "What I heard on the video was panicky fire."

This fits with my observation that they weren't taking this seriously, and that they didn't suspect the level of risk necessary to justify SWAT involvement. They were caught completely off-guard by the sight of a homeowner with a gun, and someone fired in panic, prompting the rest of the team to start firing. I think the biggest sign of this blase attitude was the guy who knocked walking away with his back to the home and his weapon slung on his back while a (supposedly) dynamic entry was taking place (I believe this is the same guy you point out in #11 who runs up to do the "me too" firing with his pistol).

To me, this has all the appearance of a "justification raid" - using the SWAT team for something that doesn't really need it, because if it's only used for the appropriate situations it won't get used enough to justify the money it takes to maintain the team. It's pure politics, and has nothing to do with actual law enforcement.

They don't even appear to have been treating this as a training opportunity - it was just a chance to go out and play with their cool toys while justifying their budget.

As for the body armor they found, does anyone else remember the early days of Iraq/Afghanistan, when families were buying body armor for their loved ones in combat areas because the military got caught short? Given that, how can anyone *not* expect a marine who served in those wars to own their own body armor?

Posted by: Jake at May 31, 2011 10:52 AM

As someone who has done a bit of airsoft, that raid is a farce.

No stack, no signals of readiness, weapons handling in the horizontal plane. They'd be laughed at by airsofters.

That's not good.

Posted by: Slowjoe at May 31, 2011 11:06 AM

Depressing map over at Cato...

We have to get out of this Drug War as it is making too many of the wrong sorts of people powerful and allowing too many of our institutions to become corrupt in many different ways.

We are empowering gang bangers from Mexico, Central America and the black ghettos by allowing them to operate outside of the law. We keep saying that we are going to WIN the war on drugs and yet the gangs get bigger and bigger and we keep falling behind.

So to win we start eroding our rights and allowing our "soldiers" the police to violate more and more of our rights. As this proceeds more and more of the sane types don't want to go into police work and so standards fall and idiots get in.

We are well and truly screwed until this paradigm shifts. Unfortunately all of this is WAY too lucrative for all involved to stop. The police benefit with ridiculous budgets and the gangbangers benefit with more and more money.

The gordian knot is the legality of drug use. We have to make it legal and controlled...take this out of the street.

Posted by: Pierre at May 31, 2011 11:22 AM

Nicely done from the tactical standpoint. Mine was done mainly from the career police officer, legal and common sense standpoints. I have six posts up - one taken from the statement of Sgt. Krghier who handed the planning for this raid to a subordinate and 'just hung around.' He is the one running behind the SUV when the shooting starts. He was also advised that of the four homes to be hit that day, Jose Guerena's was likely to be the one where they would encounter active resistance. I have also analyzed the statement of Mrs. Guerena and provided a final analysis based on those statements, the video and now the SWAT team audio which was recently released.

Posted by: BeatandRelease at May 31, 2011 11:44 AM

Since it was a 'search warrant' and not an 'arrest warrant', maybe it's a continuing investigation??

Since they completely failed to find anything supporting a crime, I would infer that any legitimate investigation is now over. That hypothesis has been thoroughly falsified.

Other things -- you hear at :17 a report consistent with a flashbang at the same time as the "bang bang bang" transmission on the radio. I would assume that is to prevent any of the officers from confusing the report with shots fired from inside the house. ("bang" for flashbang.) This also raises the question of a flashbang being deployed at some currently unknown (to us) location a full 15 seconds before the breach. What is the point of that? 15 seconds is enough time for any hardened criminal to recover from its effects.

And yes, having seen a proper assault before, that was nothing of the sort. I'm also shocked that the only killed Mr. Guerena.

Posted by: Phelps at May 31, 2011 11:44 AM


I'd like to see 'airsofters' play with real bullets going both ways. Might put a different outlook on the game.

BTW, horizontal weapon holding, for those wearing hard armor, has been around for a while. The speculation is it would be lessening to have a UD on a plate, while staging, than an unprotected lower extremities (at least that's the theory). Something 'airsofters' don't worry about, I guess.

Posted by: Buck Turgidson at May 31, 2011 12:07 PM

Buck Turgidson - I've done it both ways with Miles gear. Standing in a doorway will get you killed every time.

Posted by: Old Soldier at May 31, 2011 01:07 PM


Thank for responding. Several thoughts; We need to know when the warrants were procured - how long had they been ready? It could have been a 'no-knock' at application time and someone realized justification of the no-knock authorization no longer exist at the time the warrants were executed.

I surmise they were looking for something that would lead them to a extended booty, as they had search warrants not arrest warrants (supposedly). And as you clearly pointed out, we're working with what the media tells us. It will be interesting to learn what else was found at the other three searches and if anyone also resisted during those raids??

I wonder if there is video on the other seizures?

Posted by: Buck Turgidson at May 31, 2011 01:47 PM

@ buck turgidson

if you note, the bullets in this case, only went in one (general) direction

Posted by: brad at May 31, 2011 01:49 PM

"If the police want to search someone’s home, they need a warrant."

Supreme court says you're wrong. When you started on your bio I thought you were going to come down squarely on the side of the incompetents who raided the four houses. Pleasant surprise. I have a New York State Trooper cap. Would the sheriff say that was evidence of a nefarious plot? He wants to cover up their bungle. I'll go a lot farther than you and say the use of SWAT is out of control and deadly force is out of control.

Posted by: pacific_waters at May 31, 2011 02:23 PM

["Standing in a doorway will get you killed every time."]

Only if you allow the enemy/suspect to shoot first. Many front doorways on urban homes are impossible to do 'safely', which is where shields sometimes work. I've seen everything from tennis balls to 40mm bean bags launched at front doors to alert the occupants, from a safer distance. I always thought using a side or rear door would be better (except for those damn dogs), however, we ran into issues where the house had been divided up into three or four separate residences for extended families, unknown to us as no permits were pulled. (that was ugly)

For sure Old Solider, if you do enough of these raids something always turns to crap. Just like friendly fire & killing non-combatants in the military, to medical doctors killing 100,000 people every year through wrongdoing and negligence.

Posted by: Buck Turgidson at May 31, 2011 02:23 PM

My sympathy and my prayers are for Vanessa Guerena and her child.

My anger and my call for justice are for Sheriff Dupnik and his thugs.

Posted by: ExurbanKevin at May 31, 2011 02:41 PM

Ex-LEO here, and one who served a full career from 1973 through 2003, encompassing the old "hat Squad" days to the present tactics.

Without going into a lengthy history, here's what needs to be done. Anytime more than four officers go to a scene where they are going to use dynamic entry, and weapons other than sidearms are carried, the legal standard should REQUIRE a firm plan for force projection, and a complete AAR done IMMEDIATELY afterwards to detail how the plan was used, what force was used, etc.

If the PeeDees knew that EVERY time they used a SWAT dynamic entry, their ENTIRE deployment, from request through mop-up, was going to be a matter of IMMEDIATE public release, then I'm betting that SWAT wouldn't be used one tenth as much as it is now.

For the record, in the Portland OR metro area, there are more SWAT call-outs in a normal week than there used to be in an entire year.

The police are NOT the military. They all ought to lose the Tommy Tactical uniforms with black-out insignia and go back to their traditional uniforms, their traditional car paint schemes, etc.

Any Officer or Deputy who wants to be Tommy Tactical should be given forms to apply for a Military Leave of Absence, and directed to the nearest recruiting station.

BTW, when I first swore in, the idea was "protect and serve, even if you had to lay down your life doing it" Today's idea is "whatever you do, you go home to Mama when the shift is over" That incomprehensible change is what has driven all this SWAT over-use and most of the rest of the Tommy Tactical crap, because the public must never be allowed to get the idea that the cops won't ever CONFRONT a danger situation with the odds not on their side.

BTW2, the usual way to serve a dangerous warrant in 1973 was one or two detectives, and MAYBE one patrol officer. We used our BRAINS to get the better of the bad guys then, not our boots and machine-guns.

Posted by: Rivrdog at May 31, 2011 04:41 PM

What's really sad here, keeping in mind the politics of Pima COunty, is if Jose Guerena had been an illegal alien instead of an Honorable Marine the locals would be lying in the streets having spasms demanding the heads of that SWAT Team....

Posted by: Matthew at May 31, 2011 05:06 PM

BTW2, the usual way to serve a dangerous warrant in 1973 was one or two detectives, and MAYBE one patrol officer. We used our BRAINS to get the better of the bad guys then, not our boots and machine-guns.

This is destroying the link between the public and police officers...this is a very bad thing.

After a while a body might start thinking that all these bad decisions that have been made in the last 40 years are not the result of accidental foolishness.

Posted by: Pierre at May 31, 2011 05:13 PM

PS - if 'federale' is serious about the assholes hitting a siren ( and you can obtain one for under thirty bucks, if that gets your rocks off ) and that announcing the entrance of armed murderers, then the only SANE response is this:
If you hear a siren outside your dwelling, arm up, load chamber, and prepare for home invaders who want to murder you. Take out as many of the cowardly bastards as possible, because they are going to kill you regardless of what you do. The least you can do as a favor for your country, is to put a few of the nazi bastards in the dirt.

Posted by: Slobyskya Rotchikokov at May 31, 2011 05:32 PM

Hmmm... Many questions of legality. Good report sir. If I may post. From someone who used to teach these in the old days when SWAT was first gaining traction I am saddened by the loss of a Citizen for just doing what many of us would probably be caught doing in the same situation. They gained a lot of the training from us in the military including the discipline of when not to shoot. It meant something. After that, seven years as a SWAT Medic watching many actions from more of an observer point of view. Did you catch that; MEDIC on scene and present for all who may need care after an incident, for whatever reason. SWAT was rarely used because of the inherent dangers. As it was intended to save lives, not cause damage or take lives. This was a fiasco from what I have seen on the video. If I was officially over viewing this there would be many heads rolling, suspensions, and a couple of firings already. Geez, the incompetence illustrated is so disheartening.

Posted by: Taz at May 31, 2011 06:14 PM

That shot sequence, especially the "...followed by a two second silence and one final shot." bothers hell out of me. Would even if there were hard evidence of this being a righteous raid.

Posted by: Firehand at May 31, 2011 06:48 PM

Great article, very concise. My point, finding a border patrol hat, that is a green baseball type cap with "Border Patrol" stitched on it, is not uncommon. These caps are routinely available at a great many location and are considered tourist items. You can also buy them on line for less than $20. As for the body armor, that can also be freely purchased on line and since this guy was a Marine it would not be at all unusual to find such and item in his closet. Considering all the evidence presented, I would have to call this one UNJUSTIFIED, AND SHERIFF DUPNIK WILL TRY TO SPIN IT OR COVER IT UP COMPLETELY.

Posted by: Jim at May 31, 2011 06:52 PM

Hey Mike? Isn't the purpose of the officer with the shield first in to provide at least some manner of cover for the stack as they move in?

Thanks very much! You and Beat and Release have provided excellent analysis of a very amateur cluster fooked operation.

Oh, yea! For you guys that are knocking *airsoft* the USCG vessel boarding crews train exclusively with *airsoft*. I have yet to see or hear of any cluster fook op's from their teams.

Posted by: streetsweeper at May 31, 2011 08:16 PM

I'm a law abiding civilian taxpayer with no criminal record and I have body armor (and NV gear) because I know people who've had their home invaded and the homicide rate is almost war level high (60 per capita in 2010). The national average is around 5 per capita. If we were a country we'd have the second highest rate in the world after Honduras.

So siren or no, if I'm awakened to someone kicking my door down, somebody's getting hurt.

That could very well have been me and the only thing I would do differently is to strive to be more successful than Mr. Guerena in defending my family, my property, and my life.

Posted by: Robert at May 31, 2011 08:22 PM

I used to work in night clubs in a large city, I owned a vest for well over 10 years, didnt need it anymore an sold it on ebay.

I also had a hat at one time that said border patrol on it................

Posted by: rumcrook at May 31, 2011 09:01 PM

You good people seem to have, with a few exceptions your collective behinds up your rear ends. The Para-Military make up of the LEO's in this country is by design. Years ago the head of the East German Stazi was brought here by the loving leaders of the Justice Department and other so called protectors of our country to advise them on how to control the populace and eventually enslave us just like the East German people were subjected to. When will the SHEEPLE of the United States grow a pair and do away with these traitors and criminals that have completely destroyed our way of life. I have an answer to a entry stack, it's called claymore hidden at my front and back entrance and 30-06 armor peircing FMJ from a semi-auto BAR. If you all think that we can vote our way out of this, then you may as well do yourselves in because SHEEPLE that give the enemy the benifit of the doubt through out history have ended up in a ditch. Get it strait your poor people, the powers that are do not have ant of you listed in their New World Order. Oh and LEO's and my brothers in the military, when they are done with you and you have done all of their murdering and dirty work, you will be done also. Get it threw your heads, this is not the America that our forfathers and fathers fought and died for. It is time to make a choice and decide just what or who's side that your on. Don't be on the wrong side because the excuse of I was just following orders will not wash. It didn't for the Nazi's in Nurremburg and it's not going to help you here in America.

Posted by: Mayac at May 31, 2011 09:48 PM

Dead on target, Glad you like to type.....

Posted by: Orion at May 31, 2011 10:03 PM

A lot of police range training involves repeated scenarios where the training officer yells "GUN" and everyone starts firing. In the field this leads to situations where an officer sees a person with a gun and says "GUN" at which point everyone shoots the person with the gun whether the person with the gun is a threat or not. I personally find this method of police range training particularly disturbing.

Posted by: Ed. at May 31, 2011 11:01 PM

Also ex-LEO, 1974-2010, never in Arizona, but federal, state, and county. First, I've served a couple hundred search warrants and NEVER had a search warrant or a return sealed. The affidavit, with all of the probable cause, yes, many times, and in drug cases, most of the time, but the other two are almost always public documents. I can think of a couple of situations wherein a judge might be persuaded to temporarily seal a warrant or a return, but as soon as the defendant lawyered up, they were going to get a copy. It makes sense, because we're required to leave a copy of the warrant AND the return or at least a receipt for everything taken with the occupant or at the location. They've effectively got a copy already, so what's the point of sealing it?
The return, however, is not, as you describe, an AAR. It's only an accurate listing of what was removed pursuant to the warrant. If nothing was seized, that's what you write on the receipt, and the return.
Law enforcement got increasingly "dynamic" during my career. We did lots of papers in the 70s with, as one commenter said, a couple of agents or detectives, and now, a full team would do them while we watched from outside. Most of those teams got very good, because they were getting a lot of practice. I worked with LAPD's SWAT on a couple of warrants and they were like machines, everybody thinking and moving together, it was breathtakingly efficient. Of course those guys, when they finished my warrant, they drove somewhere else and hit another place, and then another, and another. Do that every day, week in, week out, you get pretty good.
These guys were also breathtaking, but not in a good way. You're supposed to be covered behind the bunker man, that's what he's there for, and practically none of these deputies were. One guy left the "stack" (such as it was) and disappeared into the house. All those rounds flying past him, I'll bet that was exciting. I just wonder if this wasn't their fourth warrant of the morning (it's pretty bright-broad daylight) and they just didn't have time to properly prepare a plan. Even so, they look very, very bad.

Posted by: johnm at June 1, 2011 12:46 AM

Sorry, one more thing, you can barely hear someone say, "police, search warrant, open the door," right after the one guy knocks. So, it was a knock and announce warrant, and legally, they fulfilled the requirement. Our policy, which is federal and in the Ninth Circuit, same as Arizona, was to knock and announce three times before attempting entry. You're SUPPOSED to wait long enough after knocking for someone to come and respond to your request for entry. Only sounds of flight or destruction of evidence justify breaking in. This was the functional equivalent of Halt Bang Who Goes There.

Posted by: johnm at June 1, 2011 01:00 AM

The way I was trained, you knock and then immediately remove the barrier (door) which they did. Then they killed an innocent man. How do I know he's innocent? Well knowing that regime, if they had anything it would have been leaked by now. They don't and are playing for time in order to develop a story which will CYA them. Only that's hard to do without committing additional crimes.

Posted by: PooDoo at June 1, 2011 07:46 AM

48: The shooting stops.
50: One final round is fired.

Two seconds is a long time in a gun fight.

You are not allowed to continue shooting after the target ceases to be a threat.

Was that final shot a FINISHER? That is was it a shot to insure that the target is dead?

Posted by: Ed. at June 1, 2011 08:48 AM

AND.... For those of you who are worried about the legalities involved... No worries! It was all legal.

When Hitler and Stalin did their genocides, they were "covered" under lawful authority as well. At least in Germany and the Soviet Union. All nice and legal. They made sure to give themselves the necessary 'powers' to do whatever they wanted. Sound familiar?

If the shoe fits... Unfortunately, it is, more and more.

Posted by: PooDoo at June 1, 2011 09:41 AM

Thanks for a fascinating viewpoint.

Posted by: Erin O'Brien at June 1, 2011 07:52 PM

Woe be unto you, murderers! assassins! For your fate is sealed by your own blood lust, lies and perversion of justice and all that is holy. For as you have done under color of law unto the innocents, so shall it be done unto you on the terrible day of reckoning on the day Our Lord and Savior Christ Jesus returns to judge both the quick and the dead.

For it is written:
Whoso sheddeth man's blood, by man shall his blood be shed: for in the image of God made he man.

Posted by: Spirit of '76 at June 2, 2011 01:33 AM

It would appear that there are multiple failures in this system. Why are judges that sign these orders left off this murder rap. Everyone who made a key decision should be fired and convicted of murder or at the least Manslaugter. But this again shows that the law does not apply to Police, Judges, and Lawyers. Make the law apply to them equally as it did to the police before. That is the only way to build restraint back into the system.

Judges should be stripped of any ability to practice law and criminally convicted when they are grossly negligent or clearly illegal in their duties. In a case like this where their actions appear to have killed an innocent hardworking family man and citizen. They should also pay reparitions out of their own pocket. As well as go to jail for a minimum of manslaughter, or as an accomplice to murder.

I have seen judges too important and too busy to bother paying attention to the details of the case at hand. There is no room for error when sending out paramilitary squads. Why are doctors held accountable for mistakes when judges cause them too.

Most of our laws were made to protect the individual citizen's rights against a powerful government. When judges start saying "Well the law says" and can be an accessory to murder, something is wrong with the system.

Why not have a few local cameramen ride along with the SWAT team? These yahoos would not be so cavalier if every moment of their action was on camera. This is serious business and if they enter anyone's house unannounced they should expect someone even if innocent to shoot first when armed person breaks into their house... Yelling "police" or any other unintelligible word as is usually the case. does not guarantee it is Police. Try having a clear conversation with someone inside the house not expecting your conversation, while you are outside on the porch. If you don't expect there to be an incomplete communication. You are operating with half a brain. If the law encourages public officials to operate with half a brain... What is the sense.

Posted by: What checks and Balances? at June 2, 2011 01:02 PM

Well done Sir, and more questions than answers... There were SO many things done wrong, it is a miracle the wife and child weren't killed. Jose Guerena was, my opinion, a victim of circumstances well beyond his control; based on his training, HE was doing what he thought was right to protect his family.

Posted by: Old NFO at June 2, 2011 07:09 PM

The absolute BEST, objectively critiqued article I have read to date concerning the Guerena killing and SWAT tactics in general. Well done! Respects, Squirts

Posted by: Squirts at June 2, 2011 11:22 PM

Thank you for your in depth analysis of the Guerena assassination, very professional and so far the best I've seen.
I am also very disturbed about the 2 sec silence before the final kill shot. Is this why they weren't concerned about getting him medical attention?
That video is destined to become THE hallmark training film as an example of every technique that should not be used for swat teams.
Why not use tasers or beanbags or other non-lethal means to subdue their target.
Why not send in the robot first (unarmed) to negotiate a peaceful surrender?
It is indeed miraculous that his wife, child, or neighbors were not killed.
This is very scary considering how often LEO has been known to get the wrong address.
If I lived in that county I would be armor plating my house and outfitting my family and pets with body armor.
CATO also has a good article about "Overkill: The Rise of Paramilitary Police Raids in America".

Posted by: noydb at June 3, 2011 12:34 PM

There was also the question raised about Jose's gun not having any bullet marks.
It might be possible that none of the 70 rounds fired ever struck his gun but it is highly unlikely.

Posted by: noydb at June 3, 2011 01:27 PM

Look at this from another POV; assume it was a legit warrant and the Marine was a genuine bad guy. Is that the tactical plan for going after a recent combat vet who is likely to have an Immediate Action plan, a prepared fighting position, and an alternate - with the possibility of simple IEDs?

How would this have worked out if the Marine had put on his vest, gone to cover and returned fire, maybe tossed a bottle of gasoline at the door?

Why in the world would you plan on taking down a recent ground combat vet in his foxhole?

Setting aside the intel, tactics, and on-scene decisions; this was a complete management failure - every white collar in the chain needs to go.

Posted by: Jean at June 4, 2011 12:00 AM