Further Analysis of the Jose Guerena Raid

BY Herschel Smith
12 years, 10 months ago

In The Jose Guerena Raid: A Demonstration of Tactical Incompetence we saw the helmet camera video released by Sheriff Dupnik of the raid on the home of Jose Guerena.  I observed 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.

Since then Bob Owens has done a good job of outlining in more detail why this was tactically a bad incident.  But I also received a note from a Police Department Captain (his name and city will remain anonymous).  He responds to the raid.

I am curious to see what the investigation reveals and interested in what information comes out.  Civilian police are not nearly as well-trained as military personnel going to war. In higher risk situations, it is preferable to have a team with a little more training and equipment than street officers.  The somewhat casual appearance of the officers indicated they probably didn’t anticipate armed resistance even if higher risk.  In a forced entry raid, if the homeowner displayed a weapon, he may have been hit with automatic weapons (accounting for the large number of rounds.)  The homeowner was obviously deceased immediately so there was no need to allow the paramedics in to contaminate the crime scene.  Medics may have been sent in later to make a legally-required pronouncement of death if Arizona requires a medical professional to do same.  My primary concern would be: what did the officers see when they entered, did they have the correct house and how reliable was the information used for the search warrant?  If the homeowner displayed the weapon as they made entry, they probably had no choice but to shoot.  If the first shot is not yours in that type of situation, you don’t go back home that day.

My friend raises a number of important questions and issues, so let’s go into more detail on the raid and why this was not a good choice of strategy or tactics.  First, the tactics.

To begin with, the failure was set into motion by their confusion as to procedure, and their setup of the operation.  This was neither a no-knock raid nor a knock-and-question visit.  It was the worst of both worlds.  The “tactical team” turned on the siren for a moment, whether by accident or intentionally, and then knocked on the door.  They could have used the element of concealment and surprise by not announcing their presence, but they chose to give at least a cursory announcement of the team’s presence on the grounds of the home.

Next, they didn’t allow that announcement to take effect and perform its intended function, i.e., to persuade the home’s occupants to come to the door and take questions, allow the police into their home, view a warrant, etc.  By doing what they did, the police set up their own failure.  They gave Mr. Guerena long enough to grab a weapon from a sound sleep, but not long enough to ascertain what was going on.  It is well known that decisions within 30 minutes of waking are worse than those made in a drunken state, and driving is not advisable just after waking.  In this case, they forced Mr. Guerena to decide whether to defend his family, a decision he ultimately made well, where he noticed that they were police officers and never took his weapon off of safety.  Unfortunately, the police were not as disciplined.

Next, they breached the doorway, but stayed in the “funnel” far too long.  In fact, most of the officers never left the funnel, causing unnecessary hazard to themselves and the balance of the team.  Next, they were not well-trained enough or disciplined enough to withhold fire when they saw Mr. Guerena with a weapon.  They used what I will call Fallujah tactics.  Think Operation Al Fajr, or Operation Alljah.  Every home in Iraq was allowed at least one weapon, and it was usually a Kalashnikov.  The number of times that Soldiers or Marines entered the homes of Iraqis only to find that they have weapons, perhaps at their fingertips, cannot be counted.  Yet they did it, and they learned military operations on urban terrain (MOUT).  They became accustomed to the threat and risk, and they learned that split second decision-making that accomplished the mission.

In this case, Sheriff Dupnik’s tactical team made no such judgment.  They used an “if anything moves kill it” mentality (Fallujah, Iraq tactics).  Except this isn’t Fallujah, Iraq.  This is Tuscon, Arizona.  This is completely inappropriate for homes in America.  Finally, it they had stopped shooting at two shots and allowed medical aid, Mr. Guerena might have been saved.  As it was, he was their last concern.  In this case, it was supposedly a drug related raid, and no drugs or contraband were found in this home.  And Mr. Guerena is dead.

Now for the strategy.  The police department could have decided to wait until Mr. Guerena was headed to work and accompany him with several units until they found a safe place to stop and question him.  They could have executed a search warrant of his home, with him absent, at the same time, where there would have been no decision to be made regarding defense of life and family.  In this case they would have found that whatever reason that justified the search warrant to begin with was ill-conceived and mistaken.  As it is, Mr. Guerena is dead.  There could have been a thousand such options other than a day-time raid with automatic weapons.  But they didn’t choose any of those options.

If police department wish to implement military style tactics in situations that demand such tactics (e.g., hostage situations), then they need to become skilled in such tactics and fund and train the tactical teams in a manner worthy of the tactics in use.  Things such as parallel deployments with the military to various theaters around the world comes to mind.

Otherwise, police departments are simply going to have to be wiser and more sophisticated regarding their strategic approach to what they believe to be dangerous people, and corral those people to locations where the risk is minimized to the potential victims, the police, and innocent bystanders.  Any other approach is simply malfeasance on the part of the police.

Last, I call on the House Subcommittee of the Constitution or the House Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism and Homeland Security to investigate the militarization of police tactics within America, and whether such tactics comport with the constitutional rights of the citizens of the United States.  While I am sympathetic to my friend’s concern about going home at the end of his shift, that sympathy is mitigated when I witness awful tactics and even worse strategy.

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  1. On May 30, 2011 at 12:30 am, Dave Hardy said:

    Further thought: at least from media reports, the raid was part of several on his family, and the warrant was a search warrant but not an arrest warrant. That suggests that they had probable cause to believe some evidence of illegality might be in his house, but that there was no probable cause to believe he was involved in illegality. We have to wait for the search warrant’s affidavit to be released before we know the details. But it looks as if the bottom line was probable cause (defined as “strong suspicion”) that there might have been some evidence there but none to believe he was actually involved. Does that merit an armed intrusion of this sort?

  2. On May 30, 2011 at 6:29 am, TS Alfabet said:

    Let’s see now…. Sheriff Dupnik is a Democrat and one who has made repeated, vitriolic statements blaming conservatives and tea party types for the Rep. Giffords shooting back in January.

    If Dupnik had been a Republican or had been a tea party supporter, how long do you think it would have taken for the State Run Media to have proclaimed him a Racist and how long before Democrats in Congress would be calling for investigations into whether this incident of a hispanic man in his own home being gunned down was a targeted killing with civil rights overtones?

  3. On May 30, 2011 at 9:04 am, Bill said:

    So according to your friend its LEO policy to shoot an owner of a firearm in the US? Good to know. It’s now my policy to repel any home invasion with lethal force. I’m going to die anyway by their logic. No sense in letting these thugs get off clean.

  4. On May 30, 2011 at 3:05 pm, texrunner said:

    ‘ …the State run media’. No doubt it’s up to the citizens of this great Republic to spread the story of this tragedy at that of ever increasing intrusion of our own government and those sworn to protect & serve. Thanks Captain.

    Member of Oathkeepers – Houston

  5. On June 1, 2011 at 10:48 am, Mike T said:

    Congress is technically authorized under Article 1, Section 10, Clause 3 of the US Constitution to disarm these units:

    No State shall, without the Consent of Congress, lay any Duty of Tonnage, keep Troops, or Ships of War in time of Peace, enter into any Agreement or Compact with another State, or with a foreign Power, or engage in War, unless actually invaded, or in such imminent Danger as will not admit of delay.

    SWAT are so close to troops in every way other than their final targets (criminals, not enemy soldiers) that a bold Congress could easily justify passing a law directing the Secretary of Defense to confiscate all military-grade hardware in the possession of local and state police forces.

  6. On June 2, 2011 at 5:18 am, Atlas said:

    This story really has me scratching my head.

    If this ex-Marine was as dangerous as the press has been saying, then why did he not pull the rifle out of safe? He could have killed them all. After all, a Marine is first and foremost a rifleman. Lots of butt-covering going on.

    The other thing i was wondering, has anyone considered that Guerena might have thought that these moronic SWAT guys were from a Mexican drug gang? And stayed his hand when he saw it was the American police?

    I remember reading somewhere (I can’t remember where or when) that many of the Mexican drug gangs are dressing in tactical gear.

  7. On June 4, 2011 at 10:26 am, TS Alfabet said:

    To Mike T:

    I don’t think that we want the Federal government increasing its intrusions into States. Just the opposite. Instead, the solution to this kind of lawlessness is for Pima County voters to demand the investigation and prosecution of those involved and, perhaps, change State law to take away SWAT powers from local enforcement and maybe make it a State Trooper function, if necessary.

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You are currently reading "Further Analysis of the Jose Guerena Raid", entry #7004 on The Captain's Journal.

This article is filed under the category(s) SWAT Raids and was published May 29th, 2011 by Herschel Smith.

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