November 29, 2011
Six months after a SWAT team fired 71 shots at Marine vet Jose Guerena Ortiz while his family watched in their Tucson, Arizona home, no one has been charged with the brutal slaying that left a father, husband and hero dead.
The Guerena’s were caught by surprise on May 5 of this year by a knock at the door. It was still early in the morning and they weren’t expecting anyone, so Jose, a 27-year-old veteran with two tours of Iraq under his belt, grabbed a gun from their closet while his wife and 4-year-old son hid. Guerena never used the rifle — he didn’t have time. Still unaware of what was happening, Guerena was ambushed by a team of SWAT officers. In seconds they knocked down his door, aimed and fired dozens of times.
According to Christopher Scileppi, the family’s attorney, the killing was “grotesque” and “almost a caricature of an overly excited group of poorly trained law enforcement agents.”
To the county prosecutor, however, the killing was justified and no charges have been brought against the guilty parties.
The Tucson police were carrying out a warrant against Guerena on suspicion of drug charges earlier this year. He has been linked to drug trafficking before, but never directly. Never, in fact, had any charges been filed against him. In a handful of incidents, Guerena had been in the same place at the same time as others holding narcotics and paraphernalia, but never had law enforcement linked him personally to drugs.
“When you back up and look at why they’re there in the first place and whether the search warrant was proper, my mind starts struggling,” former SWAT officer Chuck Drago tells the Associated Press. “There are a lot of things that don’t make a lot of sense.” Drago adds that it is doubtful that the SWAT team had any probable cause to go after Guerena, especially in the way they did.
Perhaps most illogical is that half a year after the Vanessa and Joel Guerea lost their husband and father, no one involved in the killing highly viewed as unjust and unnecessary have been charged.
“We were so worried when he was over there fighting terrorism, but he gets shot in his own home,” Reyna Ortiz, a family relative, told ABC News after the execution. “The government killed one of their own.”
Six months later, however, no one has been held accountable. Vanessa and Joel are still without their loved one and have seen no one assume responsibility for the killing.
On August 9, Scileppi filed a lawsuit on behalf of Guerena’s estate against the sheriff’s office, those involved in the shooting and other affiliated officers, totaling a number of 14 persons. They are seeking $20 million, according to claim unearthed by the AP.
According to the SWAT team’s attorney, they don’t have much of a case.
“The claims that there was negligence or will full misconduct is absolutely ridiculous and to say that any one of them was negligent in their duties is just showing ignorance in police policy,” attorney Mike Storie tells KVOA News.
“This was all about a man who made bad choices and when you make bad choices to men who are armed, uniformed, and there for a lawful reason, bad things are going to happen.”
Scileppi insists that those bad things, however, were absolutely uncalled for. Fellow Marines have called for an investigation into the raid, but meanwhile the SWAT team has denied any accountability. If a trial does eventually emerge, it’ll be a long way’s coming. In the meantime, Guerena’s family is left without an apology and Scileppi continues to fight for compensation.
“Vanessa, Jose and Joel have suffered immense lose from the death of their husband and father,” says their attorney. “This lawsuit seeks in part to make them whole.”