The Jose Guerena Raid: A Demonstration of Tactical Incompetence

BY Herschel Smith
13 years, 1 month ago

Helmet camera footage of the SWAT team raid on the home of Jose Guerena has been released.

Bob Owen noticed the same thing I did.  One of the team members fell in the doorway upon breaching and entering the home.  The video speaks for itself, but by way of summary, let’s observe the following.

First, Mr. Guerena’s weapon, contrary to initial accounts by the SWAT team, was never taken off of safety.  The team took no shots from him.  Second, the team mills around for a while before breaching the home.  Third, they don’t form into a stack.  Fourth, absurdly, they knock and allow only four seconds for a response.  Fifth, one of the members falls in the doorway.  Sixth, upon shots being fired (by the SWAT team), more than one team member begins backing away from the incident.  Seventh, one of the team members who initially backed away moves forward to fire shots over the heads of other team members who are in the home (it’s a wonder that SWAT team members didn’t get shot by their own team).  All the while, several team members are standing aimlessly outside the home, doing nothing.  Then to top it all off, even though medical responders arrived within minutes, they weren’t allowed into the home for one hour and fourteen minutes.

The Sheriff may as well have sent the Keystone Cops to raid the home.  These clowns shouldn’t be allowed anywhere near weapons.

UPDATE: Thanks to Glenn Reynolds for the LINK.

UPDATE #2: So I asked a certain former Marine I know (combat tour of Fallujah in 2007) what he thought about this particular raid. Here are his thoughts. This would be hilarious if a man hadn’t died in the process. Tactically speaking, their raid was foolish, and they are guilty of murder. So this SWAT team wanted to “get some?” Great. Go join the Marine Corps and deploy to a foreign country and fight insurgents. You’re supposed to be peace officers, to prevent things like this from happening. As it was, Mr. Guerena thought his home was being invaded, and so what would you do in this circumstance? Well, you go get a weapon and post up. You send rounds down range to protect your family. Mr. Guerena even had the good discipline not to do that. This whole incident was evil.

UPDATE #3: I’ve had a chance to talk with my son about this some more, and a good summary of what this raid was like is to say that “It looks like the Iraqi Army raiding a house.” I had known that the ISF wasn’t present during much of his time in Fallujah (most of the security forces were Marines and IPs), so I asked him, “Why do you say that? Have you seen the Iraqi Army raiding a house?” He said yes, and I responded by asking him what it looked like? He said “It looks like that. Just like that. People falling all over each other, emptying their weapons, shooting at everything, and shooting at nothing.”

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  1. On May 27, 2011 at 12:10 pm, Rusti said:

    Keystone Nazis is probably closer to the mark.

  2. On May 27, 2011 at 12:10 pm, DC Lovell said:

    These fools can’t wait to fire their weapons. God what a bunch of children. Dupnik has proved to be a clueless politcal hack. If he doesn’t resign and Arizona reelects this rube I will be shocked.

  3. On May 27, 2011 at 12:10 pm, JR said:

    When I first read about this incident a few days ago, I was shaking with rage. How could this happen in my country? How could our dearest blood be spilt in such a senseless and wanton fashion? Who was responsible for this unspeakable catastrophe?

    And then I saw Dupnik’s name, and everything came into focus. Pima County, you have elected yourselves a politician, and not a very good one at that. You have not in any way, shape, or form elected a competent lawman. Sheriff Dupnik will continue to be a curse upon your collective households until you take action at the ballot box. You owe it to your children, so that no more will be forced to ask the heart-rending question, “Why did the police kill my daddy?”

  4. On May 27, 2011 at 12:22 pm, jrr said:

    The defense says “hey we ran the siren”, we knocked and announced “police dept.” I am a heavy sleeper, my wife wears earplugs as she is a light sleeper. If she heard the banging of the door opening and woke me from a sound sleep, the first thing in my hand is a weapon. Simply running a siren for 10 seconds, knocking loudly and announcing your presence is not enough. I hear sirens all the time in my neighborhood, I live next door to a volunteer fireman. I feel for the officers who are going in harms way, but why the bullrush? Surround the house and wait. Yeah, maybe a bad guy will destroy evidence, but de-escalation is much better than dead, perhaps innocent, civilians or dead cops. Lets be aggressive when the situation calls for it, and wait when not.

  5. On May 27, 2011 at 12:32 pm, ILTim said:

    You know what? I would think that anyone busting down the door of a man’s home with a platoon of light infantry would be prepared for anything. But it seems these black-nylon kill squads are only prepared for one thing: absolute and immediate submission. What, your surprised by our raid? Confused? Startled? Sorry, you’ll have to be killed to protect us.

    That’s just a peachy picture of a patriotic free nation, now aint it?

  6. On May 27, 2011 at 12:34 pm, Bill Johnson said:

    Not only are they incompetent, but also….

    Compare and contrast with the Rules of Engagement our forces in Afghanistan are forced by pain of courts-martial to follow.

  7. On May 27, 2011 at 12:49 pm, ceebee said:

    what is the legal ruling if an innocent homeowner is startled by the raid and actually shoots an officer (and kills them)? I’m also assuming the homeowner survives the ensuing SWAT onslaught…but given how these jack-holes trip and retreat, it wouldn’t surpise me if they would have ran like sissies if one of them were dropped. Would the shooting be considered murdering a law enforcement person? In Colorado they have a law that permits use of deadly force on your property if there is a perceived/real threat of harm. I have to believe a raid like that would qualify as such.

  8. On May 27, 2011 at 12:52 pm, murphy300 said:

    That may have been a siren sounding at the start but it sounded just like a car alarm to me. That being said, Tucson is not Fallujah, and the police knew or should have known that this was a residence with the “suspect,” his wife and infant inside, not a crack house with six or seven Crips or Bloods. If the police had a legitimate concern that Guerena would react violently to an officer knocking on the door with a search warrant (he seems to have had no criminal record at all that would support such a concern) why not stop him in his car, then have a uniformed officer knock on the front door, introduce himself to the wife, and execute the search warrant? And I’m talking about a police uniform, not BDUs and a helmet. I know it’s not as much fun as pretending that you’re a Delta Force “operator” going after Bin Laden, but that’s the point. You’re a police officer, there “to protect and serve”, not kill the enemy.

  9. On May 27, 2011 at 12:53 pm, Herschel Smith said:

    Oh my. You haven’t been following this?

    No right to resist unlawful entry by police. This ain’t your grandmother’s America.

  10. On May 27, 2011 at 12:53 pm, DirtCrashr said:

    You couldn’t get away with this stupid, asinine, idiotic, bumbling, clown-car craziness in a war-zone with people shooting back – but you can kill civilians asleep in their beds at home?? “I honked the horn” is what a UPS driver says when he backs up. Send these bozos back to their TSA jobs.

  11. On May 27, 2011 at 12:59 pm, Herschel Smith said:

    Murphy, yes, there were a thousands ways to do this, 999 of them safer than the one they chose (safer for them, safer for Guerena, safer for his family, safer for the neighbors). Anyone who treated safety with the cavalier attitude they had wouldn’t stay employed in industry for very long. These men and their supervision were just morons. They don’t need to watch a video by Magpul Industries and think they are qualified to do this sort of thing. They just need to go find other work, perhaps digging ditches or shovelling gravel. After, that is, they answer for this malfeasance.

  12. On May 27, 2011 at 1:02 pm, Dustin said:

    Ceebee, that would be up to a jury. Some would be fair, some would be unfair.

    Sadly, no one will be charged with shooting a SWAT team on these raids because anyone who is surprised by one is killed instantly, even if they are innocent law abiders who want to protect their family.

    A lot of people keep getting killed on these raids. It is insane that we would tolerate any more of them.

    Sheriff Dupnik has more blood on his already soaking hands.

  13. On May 27, 2011 at 1:05 pm, Morton Doodslag said:

    These “clowns” are murderers. Worse, they are State assassins. And Dupnik is a murderer and a vile pig for lying when this began by trying to create the image that the murderers were met with a body armor wearing gun toting right wing vet.

  14. On May 27, 2011 at 1:09 pm, Marvin said:

    That may have been a siren sounding at the start but it sounded just like a car alarm to me.

    They bumped into his van.

    Like others have observed, these men don’t seem at all prepared for the action. They’re stumbling around like a bunch of kids playing paintball. Realistically they’re just a gang of murderers playing cop, dressed up in their tacti-cool gear.

  15. On May 27, 2011 at 1:31 pm, JIMV said:

    The problem is not that a group of jack booted thugs attacked a house and murdered someone all the while protected by sovereign immunity, but that some other fat cat no where near the raid ordered it safe in the knowledge that no matter what his thugs did, HE was not going to jail or face an irate and innocent home owner with a gun.

    This is a lot like modern eminent domain. Folk get furious with the poor fool on the bulldozer destroying their home but give the weasel politician who ordered the destruction a pass.

    When those folk feel the pinch, then the abuse will stop. Besides, It could be far worse. It could have been the ATF. In that case they would have had the identical result, but it would have been at the wrong house next door.

  16. On May 27, 2011 at 1:34 pm, Bill said:

    These incompetents need to stop playing Modern Warfare in our streets.

  17. On May 27, 2011 at 1:37 pm, Bill said:

    “what is the legal ruling if an innocent homeowner is startled by the raid and actually shoots an officer (and kills them)? I’m also assuming the homeowner survives the ensuing SWAT onslaught…”

    That’s a massive assumption. They won’t hold back if one of their own is killed, right or wrong. Damned if you do, damned if you don’t.

    I’m not too keen on assuming they *might* be honest cops.

  18. On May 27, 2011 at 1:40 pm, Harry said:

    How do these guys sleep at night?

  19. On May 27, 2011 at 1:55 pm, tomw said:

    In Atlanta, the “team” hit the wrong house, using an address transcribed in error, and shot and killed a 90 year old woman. Then they tried to cover it up.

    If the Law Enforcement Officers were accountable to the citizenry, things like this would happen less. But they aren’t. Gung-ho SWAT team members, shielded by their employers from legal responsibility, are like a Gestapo set loose on the populace. Similarly, prosecutors who misbehave are also perversely protected by their office from charges of wrongful prosecution and malfeasance. Pitiful.

  20. On May 27, 2011 at 2:08 pm, memomachine said:


    Let us all think about this for a moment:

    The reason why they use these paramilitary tactics is to prevent potential suspects from flushing the evidence down the toilet. So I think it is valid to assume that they are using these tactics because in the past potential suspects have indeed taken the opportunity to flush the evidence. Right?

    So what is the downside of having a police cruiser just show up, some officers knock on the door, giving the people inside plenty of time to dispose of any drugs, and then simply say “We of the (insert name here) PD are hoping you’re having a nice day.”.

    No drugs, no problems. If the residents had drugs, now they’re going through the sewer system. Sure you haven’t made an arrest. But you have made someone experience a bad day. And if you do it often enough even the drug dealers will get tired of losing their stash every time the cops show up.

  21. On May 27, 2011 at 2:08 pm, Doug said:

    Did any one else notice the white feather in the headband of the character near the start of the video?

    I would imagine that Gunny Hathcock would take it away from Pansy McTactical the Mall Ninja and kick his ass for him.

  22. On May 27, 2011 at 2:12 pm, iconoclast said:


    That isn’t a bad solution. And, if the occupants are any sort of serious dealers, it is highly unlikely all of the drugs could be flushed in time.

    otoh, flushing the so-called war on drugs would be an even better approach. This modern day Prohibition is doing about as well as the old-fashioned Prohibition–crime, murders, and absolutely no effect on the availability of the substance. Just let people do the stupid things they will do anyway–spend less money, retain greater freedom, eviscerate the gangs, and radically reduce the Keystone Kop attacks. Not bad

  23. On May 27, 2011 at 2:35 pm, Warlord said:

    The police are to protect and serve the citizen. What they have become,is a
    group that protects and serves itself first,last and always. We have armed even small municipalities with the latest in weaponry, and equipment such as night vision
    scopes. Every cruiser is a mobile armory. Once the arms have been purchased or donated by the feds,they just have to be implemented. Have a domestic dispute? Call for SWAT. Someones going to die.

  24. On May 27, 2011 at 2:49 pm, Marvin said:

    FWIW the doctrine that protects these actions isn’t sovereign immunity, it’s what’s known as ‘qualified immunity’ –

    The confusion between SI and QI is a common error that you’ll see in comments discussing these issues.

    SI applies to states and state agents serving in a representative capacity. This doesn’t extend to police. For instance, legislators or courts could further restrict QI without affecting SI. QI actually isn’t as expansive as people often assume, which is why when the police screw up in these situations they’re fabricating evidence and the accounts they provide to cover themselves. Unfortunately it may be why they so often prevent the victim from receiving medical attention, knowing that a dead victim can’t give evidence against them.

  25. On May 27, 2011 at 3:00 pm, Jay said:

    The reason so many shots were fired may have to do with a pact that if fatal force is to be used, enough shots must be fired so that there cannot be what the lawyers call a “point source”; that is, the fatal shot cannot be attributed to any single shooter, thereby complicating prosecution. The first shot might have been a mistake, but the next 69 …

    It’s all for one and one for all.

  26. On May 27, 2011 at 3:17 pm, MCPO Airdale said:

    This is nothing less than sanctioned murder.

  27. On May 27, 2011 at 3:30 pm, X said:

    straight up murder and felony murder for every cop there.

  28. On May 27, 2011 at 3:49 pm, FrancisChalk said:

    If you are from Pima County and are not running–no sprinting–to sign a recall petition for Dupnik, you are a total fool.

  29. On May 27, 2011 at 7:38 pm, Kevin said:

    Radley Balko is looking for some expertise on interpreting this video:

    Finally, a bleg of sorts. I see that in the comments, some military folks have weighed in on the tactical skills (or lack thereof) depicted by the SWAT team in the video of the raid . I’m looking for someone who has ample military experience in these kinds of raids who would be willing to evaluate the video on the record. Drop me an email if that’s you.

  30. On May 27, 2011 at 7:48 pm, Herschel Smith said:

    Kevin, I posted an update from a certain former Marine I know (wink). That’s all I have for you. He concurred with my assessment, except in more, shall we say, colorful terms.

  31. On May 27, 2011 at 8:20 pm, Tatterdemalion said:

    How could you be surprized by this, ten years after Elian Gonzalez?

  32. On May 27, 2011 at 8:40 pm, norm said:

    I’m glad that this video has been made public, because it confirms something that LEO friends of mine have confided to me, which is that the training available to most swat units is nothing like what the public assumes it to be. Some departments do make a competent effort but most have neither the expertise or resources. So the doctrine that results is basically just to overwhelm the target and shoot like crazy at anything that appears to be a threat. This is apparent in the video by the way that they’re hopping around and firing into the house indiscriminately. It’s shooting for the sake of shooting. If they had met any resistance, that wasn’t directly in front of them, they’d never have been able to identify it and would have been entirely vulnerable, the way that they were all bunched up in the doorway.

  33. On May 27, 2011 at 8:56 pm, Don51 said:

    Does the movie line – ‘We don’t need no stinking badges’ seem to fit the whole scene? What is the actual difference from the narco home invaders and these clowns? Both are going to get away with murder.

  34. On May 27, 2011 at 9:28 pm, TheNewGuy said:

    I hate to be “that guy,” but I must.

    Way too much emoting going on. The over-the-top accusations of “murder?” The Nazi comparisons?

    This may have been a terrible tragedy, or it may have been a clean shoot. We won’t know until the investigation is complete.

    In the meantime, hyperventilation isn’t useful.

  35. On May 27, 2011 at 9:40 pm, Herschel Smith said:

    Hmmm … well, now that you put it like that, you case is so compelling and persuasive I’ve changed my mind.

    Or maybe not. Just because you disagree with a judgment doesn’t mean that that judgment is “hyperventilating.” Did you think about the possibility that the people who have been issuing the comments are completely unemotional when they wrote them? Do you know their state of mind at the time they wrote what they did? Perhaps it is, after all, just a judgment.

    And when you run in someone’s house and gun them down, it’s generally considered murder. It’s not legal to do that, or hadn’t you thought of that already?

  36. On May 27, 2011 at 9:51 pm, TheNewGuy said:

    So you’re perfectly OK with the “murder” rhetoric? The Nazi comparisons? It’s good to know that you’ll endorse that kind of rhetoric to make a largely political point. That’s also how the Brady Campaign, and their ilk roll.

    Your house, your rules… but seriously… consider dialing it back. You’re angry, you’re taking my admonition personally, and it doesn’t have to be that way.

  37. On May 27, 2011 at 9:59 pm, Herschel Smith said:

    I haven’t endorsed anything regarding “Nazi.” Comments are from commenters, not me (unless of course I make the comment).

    See, that’s what I’m saying here. “You’re angry …” How do you know that? How do you know my state of mind? Oh, I get angry from time to time about various things, but how do you know my state of mind right now?

    Now let me give you an admonition, one that I have had to issue before to others. Generally speaking, it is inadvisable to infer intent or claim to know state of mind in deliberations or debates. See, for example, parliamentary rules such as Roberts’ Rules of Order. Debate only points, not other things that you can only surmise with some probability (in this case, very low, as far as you know).

  38. On May 27, 2011 at 10:04 pm, Herschel Smith said:

    Oh, and by the way, I see absolutely nothing political about this. I don’t see anyone as scoring points on this. The sad fact is that a man is dead and doesn’t deserve to be.

    The point one could conclude from me is that I think that the team did something they had no need to do, and thus cost a man his life. You can also conclude that I think that the team is tactically inept. Finally, although I don’t specifically say so, I think that the general tendency to militarize police tactics is a sad and lamentable trend, one that is not necessary and is costing lives. This is true regardless of who is president, who is Sheriff, who comprises the tac team, who the victim is, etc., etc.

  39. On May 27, 2011 at 10:25 pm, TheNewGuy said:

    The “political” angle was merely a guess… I’ll retract that if you wish.

    I’m curious about your use of the “militarization language.” Are you a Radley Balko fan by chance? What are your feelings on the war-on-drugs?

  40. On May 27, 2011 at 10:36 pm, Herschel Smith said:

    I do not know Radley Balko. I don’t get my views from anyone else.

  41. On May 27, 2011 at 10:40 pm, TheNewGuy said:

    And the war-on-drugs?

  42. On May 27, 2011 at 11:32 pm, Herschel Smith said:

    I guess Spam Karma swept up your comment.

    Eh, I don’t have much of an opinion. We shouldn’t be putting people possessing drugs for personal use in hard core prisons only to see real reprobates made of them.

    But this isn’t germane. Regardless of what the alleged crime was, the police could have chosen a different way to do this. The way they did it was stupid and reckless. Whether we have a so-called war on drugs, theoretically, this could have been any crime. The SWAT team isn’t judge, jury and executioner. They are peace officers, sworn to protect and defend. Instead they are Barney Fife with assault rifles.

    Some oath.

    Now, this next comment isn’t directed at you. I thought I would point out to my readers, as it has come up on reddit/guns recently, “what if the police did this to your home?”

    Silly question. The home owner doesn’t know who it is. It could be the police, or s/he may not be able to tell in such a storm of activity. Or, it could be people impersonating police officers.

    The point is that this is a very hazardous, reckless way to do business. There are other ways – we just need wiser and more innovative police departments. There is no need to militarize the police. The reflexive tendency to do this is easy, but not the best choice.

  43. On May 28, 2011 at 7:42 am, doba said:

    You must surrender to government agents who call on you when you are sleeping. Forget all that training that is now automatic, you ain’t in the corps no more, boy!

  44. On May 28, 2011 at 9:05 am, The Old Guy said:

    TNG you’re scolding people on their rhetoric, but it’s apparent that you aren’t familiar with the facts at hand as they do excuse some emoting. It’s already been determined that the police have rendered a false account of what had happened. For instance, the victim never fired at them, though they claimed he had. He never even deactivated the safety on his rifle. They also prevented him from receiving medical attention, resulting in his death. Their account of the lead up to the incident has been proven false as well. So what’s apparent is that this unit has killed an innocent man and attempted to cover up this fact by casting him as a violent assailant. These facts aren’t in dispute. Were you aware of them?

    Also this is not an isolated event, there has been a pattern of similar incidents across the US over the past several years. Innocent people being gunned down by poorly prepared and hyper-aggressive police tactical units. Each time we hear similar accounts, followed by revisions and retractions until the truth finally comes out, revealing that SWAT has developed a shoot first, justify it later, attitude in many PD’s.

  45. On May 28, 2011 at 10:11 am, TS Alfabet said:

    Perhaps the worst part about this developing fiasco is where it tends to lead.

    Why do we think other nations developed such things as blood feuds? Certainly one, compelling factor is the lack of justice available from a civil government.

    When a local SWAT can not only get away with killing a suspect in a literal hail of bullets but also get away with lying about it, covering it up and blaming the media for even questioning the event at all, we as a nation are in dire danger of losing faith in our government institutions. When that happens, all hell literally breaks loose as people will feel no other recourse than to exact what they feel is justice on their own terms. It is inevitable that a people can only tolerate injustice for so long.

    I call upon the citizens of Pima County to demand the immediate resignation and prosecution of Sheriff Dupnik and any, other SWAT members that had any part in fabricating evidence or covering up the facts or otherwise acting outside the law. If this is allowed to ‘blow over’ we are all one step closer to a breakdown in basic law and order.

  46. On May 28, 2011 at 10:50 am, Darleen Click said:

    It is very unfortunate that in those places where a SWAT team is truly needed, that departmental envy has PD’s across the country making sure they have SWAT teams, too; even as they may (if they are run right) stand around for months or years before they actually are needed.

    I have worked with or in Law Enforcement (no, I’m not a sworn officer) for 13 years. I’ve seen “bad shoots”, including those that are criminally prosecuted. This incident tops even those and if the Pima County Attorney, Barbara Lawall, isn’t readying indictments or a run at the Grand Jury for indictments, she should be recalled right next to the execrable Dupnik.

    BTW, there is not one press release on the PC Attorney Office site about this incident. That doesn’t give me a warm fuzzy at all.

  47. On May 28, 2011 at 12:19 pm, David Loflin said:

    As a former Marine and Retired Police Officer of 27 yrs, this action disgusts me! It’s what happens when you assemble every day street cops, give them some special equipment , 2weeks training, and call them a SWAT team. This family’s Rights were violated, it Will cost this County money in the end, The Feds will investigate this operation. Attorneys are lining up and drooling over this case! RIP Marine you will not be forgotten soon!

  48. On May 28, 2011 at 4:58 pm, B. T. Justice said:

    “Eh, I don’t have much of an opinion. We shouldn’t be putting people possessing drugs for personal use in hard core prisons only to see real reprobates made of them.

    But this isn’t germane. Regardless of what the alleged crime was, the police could have chosen a different way to do this. ”

    The God damn Germans ain’t got nothin’ to do with this!!!

  49. On May 29, 2011 at 12:24 pm, jj said:–122746649.html

    Listen to, and read this news report from AR on 27MAay2011. The reporter has the gall to report that the team waited 3 minutes before breaching. 3 minutes? WTF? Is he high? Not to mention, they messed with the audio to amplify the officers voices and did selective editing of the video. I am at a loss for words……….How can they report something so inaccurate? Just wow. I’m disgusted.

  50. On May 29, 2011 at 12:34 pm, jj said:

    Also noticed they used their loudspeakers after the fact. Truly pathetic. They are sworn to protect and serve the public, not themselves. If these were true sheepdogs, they would have put everyone’s and I mean everyone’s safety above their own. Being that they raided 4 houses at once, these were probably reserve SWAT or street cops playing SWAT for a day. At least I hope they were. If this was their full SWAT, they serious problems. I too agree, they look like IA.

  51. On May 29, 2011 at 12:37 pm, jj said:

    Guess I need to get rid of this keyboard. My second to last sentence was meant to say, “If this was their full-time* SWAT, they have* serious problems”.

  52. On May 31, 2011 at 11:44 am, Peter said:

    So the reason for the no knock raid is to prevent flushing the evidence down the toilet. Am I the only one who thinks that if the amount involved is so small that it can be flushed down a US Congress approved, low water use toilet perhaps there should NOT be a SWAT team involved?
    Am I expected to believe that a major drug dealer can flush hundreds of pounds down the toilet in a few seconds?

  53. On June 1, 2011 at 4:57 am, SteveInSD said:

    The only reason any of these perps in uniform are still alive is that there was one well-trained individual involved: the Marine that didn’t overreact. If there is any justice at all, they should be contemplating their good luck from prison cells.

    If there had been any advanced warning about this “swat team” and its lack of training, I would have bet on the Marine.

    I consider this advanced warning for all future events. Don’t worry, I only shoot to stop the threat.

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