SWAT/Paramilitarization

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DEA Raids California, Colorado Medical Marijuana Operations

Putting some law enforcement muscle behind this month's words of warning from federal prosecutors that a new crackdown on medical marijuana distribution was getting underway, DEA agents late last week raided a model regulated medical marijuana grow in Northern California, a medical marijuana dispensary in Southern California, and a medical marijuana grow in Colorado.

"The California marijuana industry is not about providing medicine to the sick," claimed Laura Duffy, the San Diego-based US Attorney at the October 8 Sacramento press conference. "It's a pervasive, for-profit industry that violates federal law."

But the operation raided Thursday, Northstone Organics in Mendocino County, has been touted as a model medical marijuana grow. It holds a Mendocino County sheriff's permit to grow the 99 pot plants seized and destroyed by the feds, pays an estimated $8,500 annually in fees to remain compliant, and has even had sheriff's deputies testify favorably about it in a state court case where Northstone drivers delivering medicine to patients were arrested in Sonoma County.

Northstone Organics founder and owner Matt Cohen told the Ukiah Daily News Friday that heavily-armed agents raided his home and property early Thursday morning, destroying plants and hauling off evidence, but not charging him with a crime.

"They destroyed our home and eradicated everything," Cohen said. "They came in, guns blazing. They calmed down and were pleasant at the end, but they came in with machine guns."

Cohen said the smash and grab raiders included six DEA agents, a state Bureau of Narcotics Enforcement agent, and a Mendocino County sheriff's deputy, "who didn't know what he was walking into here."

Northstone is a strict cooperative, growing the plants it distributes to members in the area, as well as in San Francisco and Los Angeles. It is fully compliant with California's medical marijuana laws.

"If we're not legal, nobody's legal," Cohen said. "We actually are a legitimate not-for-profit corporation. We worked with the county to get where we are, and there are illegal growers all around us. We fell under what the US Justice Department said was the threshold for prosecution."

The message the feds are sending? "Go back underground, I guess; make our community a less safe place to be," Cohen said.

The Northstone Organics raid was "shameful and despicable," said Dale Gieringer of Cal NORML, which reported the raid as it was still going on Thursday morning. "The DEA is doing nothing but encouraging lawlessness and disobedience to the law, said Gieringer."This is a victory for the Mexican cartels."

A day earlier and several hundred miles to the south, DEA agents and Pomona police raided the Green Cross USA dispensary, seizing marijuana, marijuana edibles, and records. But unlike the Northstone Organics raid, the raid on Green Cross appears to have been instigated by local authorities, who called in the feds to help.

Pomona Police Capt. Paul Capraro told the Daily Bulletin that the dispensary owner and landlord had received threat letters from the US Attorney's office. The letters said "if they didn't close down they would be subject to criminal prosecution, civil prosecution, and property seizure," he said.

Pomona banned dispensaries with a March 2008 ordinance, and had cited the dispensary in March for operating without a business permit. The owner, Jeffrey Maul, was convicted of operating without a business license, but is appealing that conviction.

The joint city-DEA action sends a message to other dispensaries in Pomona, Capraro said. "Our message is simple, that dispensaries are not lawful businesses in Pomona."

But it's not just a local case, said DEA spokeswoman Sarah Pullen. "We seized contraband, but also gathered evidence for the ongoing investigation," she said, adding that arrests could be forthcoming and that the city and the DEA had worked together for months on the case.

Meanwhile, in Colorado, what originated as a local law enforcement raid against a medical marijuana grower who contracted to grow as part of a larger grow at Cherry Top Farms in Denver morphed during the day into a joint local-state-federal raid replete with carloads of DEA agents and US Attorney representatives.

"We are 100% compliant" with state medical marijuana laws, a Cherry Top Farms manager told Westword after the raid. "But when the feds walk in, they can do whatever the hell they want." Local police had issues with the contract grower who was the original target of the raid, the manager said. "They came to take care of him, but when they got here, they were unable to turn a blind eye, and they did a lot of damage," he complained.

When the first officers showed up late Thursday morning, "it was the Denver Police Department, and then it was the state Medical Marijuana Enforcement Division. Then there were the feds. When they got here, they decided they needed a search warrant for us, too," the manager explained. "They lined us all up and questioned us and took our phones and [state mandated ID] badges. Then they gave some of the option to leave, after they handed over their IDs. But a few of chose to stay, and we were forced to wait in a two-parking space area, probably 10 feet by 10 feet, from 11:00am to 11:00pm. They did let us go to the bathroom, but you definitely had to ask permission to take a piss."

The raiders cleaned out Cherry Top, the manager said. "They took all of our live plants, all of our medicine, all of our extracts, and all of our baked goods," plus at least one more thing. "We have these cute t-shirts, little tank-top titty shirts, and one of the female officers put one on and was dancing around. I said to one of the agents at the door, 'I'm not trying to be disrespectful, but that doesn't seem to be very professional.' And he said, 'It's been a long day. We're just trying to have some fun.'"

The t-shirt has vanished, the manager said. "It's not here. She took it."

After last week's threats from prosecutors in Sacramento, it now appears that the feds are backing up those threats with actions. The medical marijuana wars are heating up again.

Victims of Deadly Tucson SWAT Raid Begin Legal Action

The attorney for the family of Jose Guerena, the ex-Marine gunned down in his own home as a Pima County SWAT team burst in, has filed a notice of claim. Such a legal maneuver lays the groundwork for a damage-seeking lawsuit.

Jose Guerena survived tours of duty in Iran and Afghanistan, but not his encounter with a Tucson, AZ SWAT team.
Earlier reports said that the lawsuit will seek $20 million in damages from the Pima County Sheriff's Office, several Pima County municipalities, and the SWAT team members. It will claim that the SWAT team used excessive force and was negligent in the raid.

Guerena, who shared the home with his wife and young son, died after SWAT team members fired 71 rounds at him as they burst through his door and confronted him in his underwear in a hallway holding a weapon. The fatal May 5 raid was part of a series of raids that day in what police said was the investigation of a drug rip-off gang.

But no drugs, cash, or illegal items were found at Guerena's home, and, to date, no one has been arrested for anything in relation to that investigation or those raids. The officers involved in the raid have already been exonerated of any wrongdoing by local officials.

On Friday, Guerena family attorney Chris Scileppi told Fox 11 News that a newly released sheriff's department video showing Vanessa Guerena being pulled from the house and 4-year-old Joel Guerena running to safety after his father had been shot demonstrated just how horrific Guerena's death at the hands of police had been.

"They just give a snapshot of the horror that his wife his small child went through as they crawled past their dying husband and dying father," said Scileppi.

Two days earlier, Scileppi filed the 15-page claim outlining what it calls reckless actions by the SWAT team.  "They were negligent and grossly negligent in how they performed this the execution of this warrant in killing Mr. Guerena," said Scileppi. The $20 million figure would "accommodate the children's loss of their father," he said. "No amount of money can replace Mr. Guerena to his wife, to his children, to his family."

The two sides have 60 days from last week to reach an agreement on the claim, or a lawsuit will be filed. Comments from Mike Storie, an attorney for Pima County SWAT team suggest, that agreement is unlikely and this matter will end up in the courts.

The $20 million figure was "obscene," he told Fox 11. "I would be absolutely shocked if anybody settles this case and did not fight it vigorously and if asked, I would say it would be a ridiculous result," said Storie. "I think a dollar is excessive. Any type of settlement for any type of award would be unwarranted in this case."

Jose Guerena was the 25th person to be killed this year in domestic law enforcement operations. This year's toll of drug war killings is currently at 32.

Tucson, AZ
United States

This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

We've got sticky-fingered SWAT cops, we've got perverted probation officers, we've got smack-slinging uniformed police officers, we've got strung out, pill-stealing cops, and, of course, we've got crooked jail guards. Let's get to it:

Drug prohibition's filthy lucre tempts law enforcement (image via wikimedia.org}
In Waycross, Georgia, a Ware County prison guard was arrested last Friday after he set off a metal detector upon arriving at work and was found carrying contraband cell phones and marijuana. Theodis Martin, 25, is charged with possession of marijuana with intent to distribute, possession of more than an ounce of marijuana, bringing prohibited articles to the prison without the warden's permission, possession of prohibited items inside the guard line and trading with inmates without the consent of the warden. Although he was fired from his job the same night, he is still at the Ware County Jail.

In Kansas City, Kansas, three Kansas City Police SWAT team members pleaded not guilty Monday to federal charges they stole cash and other property from homes while serving search warrants, including one that was part of a federal sting operation. Officers Jeffrey Bell, Darryl Forrest, and Dusting Stillings are accused of stealing video game equipment during searches at several homes last year. Complaints from residents led to the sting, which led to additional charges the crooked trio stole video game equipment, other electronics, and $640 in cash in that incident. Bell and Forrest were charged with conspiracy against rights, deprivation of rights and theft. Sillings was charged with conspiracy against rights and theft. They each face up to 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine if convicted on the conspiracy charge. The other two charges carry a maximum one-year prison term and a $100,000 fine.

In Baltimore, a Baltimore police officer was indicted Tuesday along with four other people on drug and gun charges. Officer Daniel Redd and the others were charged with conspiracy to distribute heroin. According to court documents, the other drug ringleader obtained heroin from Africa and distributed it to Redd and others. Redd is also accused of distributing heroin to others, including incidents that took place in the Northwest District Police Station parking lot while Redd was in uniform. He is also charged with carrying a firearm while engaged in drug trafficking, which carries a mandatory minimum five-year federal prison sentence.

In Provo, Utah, a former Provo police officer was sentenced last Friday to probation for stealing prescription medications from a home where he had previously responded to a call. Tony Brewer, 33, was arrested after a Provo family said he went to their home to investigate a 911 call, then returned several times and stole Lortab pills. A family surveillance camera caught him in the act. Brewer's attorney said he got hooked on pain pills after a police training injury. He has since undergone drug treatment. He was charged possession of a controlled substance and theft, but the theft charge was dropped as part of the plea deal. He has to do six months of probation and pay a $623 fine.

In Portland, Oregon, a former federal probation officer was sentenced Monday to 10 years in prison for sexually abusing five women under his supervision between April 2005 and June 2009. Mark John Walker, 52, had pleaded guilty in April to charges he violated the civil rights of his victims by sexually abusing them. As part of his plea agreement, he admitted forcing one woman to have sex with him and fondling four other women. Several of the women were drug defendants on probation.

SWAT Reporting Bill Filed In Michigan

A bill that would impose reporting requirements on law enforcement SWAT teams has been introduced in the Michigan House. The bill, House Bill 4857, would require those specialized paramilitary units to file a report when they forcibly enter a home, discharge a weapon, or injure or kill a suspect.

At least one Michigan legislator wants to know how often SWAT teams are deployed. (image via wikimedia.org)
The sponsor, Rep. Tom McMillin (R-Rochester Hills) told the instate Livingston Daily he introduced the bill in part because of concerns stemming from a May 2010 Detroit police SWAT raid in which police shot and killed 7-year-old Aiyanna Jones. He said he was most concerned about the lack of information from SWAT teams, which use automatic weapons and grenades, as well as kicking down doors.

"These are areas where a little transparency wouldn't hurt," McMillin said. "I think it will raise some awareness of where reporters and other interested citizens may have additional questions. These are not your typical traffic stops," he added.

As introduced, the bill would apply to SWAT teams within the Michigan State Police, county sheriff's departments, and municipal police departments. That formulation is leading some law enforcement officials to say that it would not apply to interagency drug task forces, such as the LAWNET task force that raided the Marshall Alternatives medical marijuana dispensary in Fowlerville earlier this year.

Livingston County Sheriff Bob Bezotte, who presides over LAWNET, said the reporting bill wouldn't apply to task force actions and attacked the measure as a "political" effort to deal with isolated instances.

"We've got enough laws -- so from that aspect, I disagree with what he wants to do," he said "The state can't come down and tell me how to run my department," Bezotte added. "What they end up doing is causing more problems than we originally had," he added.

Drug units deserve special consideration, Bezotte added. "It's not to try to get away with anything. I think if you've worked with a drug unit, you would understand you don't want anyone knowing who you are, especially if you're doing undercover buys," he added. "I would side with the drug units on that one in terms of secrecy."

But that interpretation didn't fly with attorney Denise Pollicella, who represents Marshall Alternatives. "It absolutely would apply to LAWNET," she said."I know, personally, of three different occasions and three different raids where they did not list all of the property and cash that they took on their inventory," Pollicella added.

The bill was a necessary "accountability measure," she said. "I think that if the public actually realized how prevalent these raids are, and how unnecessary the extreme force is and how traumatizing it is for the victims, there would be significantly more outrage," she said.

McMillin said he wasn't sure whether multiagency drug task force SWAT teams would be covered by the bill as written. He said the bill could become more agency-specific as it moves through the legislative process. It is currently in the House Judiciary Committee, with a hearing set for July 27.

The only other state to impose reporting requirements on SWAT teams is Maryland. That law passed only after a Prince Georges County SWAT team made the mistake of practicing its usual tactics on the mayor or Berwyn Heights, who was both innocent of any wrongdoing and in a position to be able to right the wrong inflicted on him.

MI
United States

40th Anniversary Drug War Continues, SWAT Raid Music Video, More Wire

The 40th anniversary of Richard Nixon's declaration of the drug war continues. First, footage from LEAP's press conference, followed by their march from the National Press Club to the Office of National Drug Control Policy office to hand-deliver their report to drug czar Kerlikowske:



Comedian/Activist Randy Credico has made a startling discovery, with his first release from the "Nixon: The Lost Tapes" collection. In Credico's (parody) excerpt, Nixon says he was duped into calling for a drug war and says he regrets it:



We link Reason again, this time with their new music video, No Knock Raid. Don't watch it if you're about to try to get to sleep:



If you haven't already, check out my post last week about Reason's current magazine issue, "Criminal Injustice."

The Wire is back in the news too. Last weekend we noted that Attorney General Eric Holder really wants another season of the show, but David Simon says they'll only do it if he ends drug prohibition. On Thursday Holder said okay!

Unfortunately he was only joking -- and the drug war is no joking matter. Still, I interpret it as reflecting implicit respect for the anti-drug war viewpoint -- we'll take it.

Tucson SWAT Team Cleared in Killing of Ex-Marine

The Pima County Sheriff's Department SWAT team that gunned down a former Marine in his Tucson home during a raid in which no drugs were found was cleared Tuesday of any wrongdoing in the incident. The victim, Jose Guerena, 26, died in a hail of bullets in his underwear in a hallway of his home as he responded gun in hand to his wife's report of armed intruders.

Jose Guerena
SWAT team members coming through his front door fired at least 70 rounds at Guerena, striking him at least 21 times. Guerena never fired a shot. The SWAT team prevented emergency medical teams from treating him for more than an hour. He was pronounced dead shortly thereafter at a local hospital.

Pima County Chief Criminal Deputy Attorney David Berkman said in a report issued Tuesday that the SWAT team members were justified in using deadly force because Guerena pointed his weapon at them.

"A close examination of the rifle revealed it appeared to have been damaged by being fired upon from such an angle that it must have been pointed toward officers," Berkman wrote. "The officers were mistaken in believing Mr. Guerena fired at them. However, when Mr. Guerena raised the AR-15 semi-automatic assault rifle in their direction, they needed to take immediate action to stop the deadly threat against them."

The report did not delve into how the SWAT team could mistakenly think it was being shot at, nor did it address the fact that no one has been arrested in the series of raids that took place the day Guerena was killed. Police found weapons and body armor in the ex-Marine's home, but those are legal items. The report also did not note the role that the choice to use SWAT when entering the home played in creating the situation.

In statements to investigators after the raid, SWAT team members said the raid on Guerena's home was part of a probe into "possible drug running, home invasions, and potential homicides."

But the only actual -- as opposed to potential -- killing has now been ruled not a homicide. Jose Guerena died at the intersection of Second Amendment rights and paramilitary policing. He isn't the first, and he certainly won't be the last.

Tucson, AZ
United States

No Drugs in Home of Ex-Marine Killed By SWAT Team

No drugs were found in the home of a Tucson man shot and killed May 5 by a Pima County Sheriff's Office SWAT team, the Arizona Star reported Friday. Former Marine Jose Guerena, 26, was killed by SWAT team members after confronting them with a rifle in his hand as they broke into his home to serve a search warrant related to a complex drug investigation.

Jose Guerena survived two tours in Iraq, but not his encounter with a Pima County SWAT team.
Guerena's was one of four homes searched by SWAT teams in the investigation that day. Police said they found about $95,000 in cash, an unspecified amount of marijuana, and firearms during the raids, but nothing especially incriminating was found at Guerena's house.

Police said items seized at Guerena's house included a pistol, paperwork, tax returns, insurance papers, bank statements, and a bank card. They also found body armor in a hallway closet and US Border Patrol hat in the garage. Owning weapons, body armor, and Border Patrol hats is not illegal.

No arrests were made at any of the homes searched. Guerena had no criminal record.

Guerena's wife, Vanessa, and their four-year-old son were in the home when it was raided. Vanessa Guerena has said she saw armed men moving around her house and woke her husband, who was sleeping after working all night at his job in a mine. She and the child hid in a closet while Guerena went to confront the intruders.

Police originally said Guerena fired at officers before they returned fire. They had to revise that statement when it was revealed that the safety on Guerena's gun had not been switched off.

Tucson, AZ
United States

At Least Seven Police Officers Died for Drug Prohibition Last Year [FEATURE]

Last Friday, thousands of police from across the country, as well as civilians, gathered in downtown Washington, DC, for a candlelight vigil to honor law enforcement officers who gave their lives in the course of their duties. The event was a highlight of National Police Week, sponsored by the National Law Enforcement Officers' Memorial Fund, which is set up to honor those who have died.

2009 NLEOMF ceremony (oregon.gov)
There were plenty to remember. According to the Officer Down Memorial Page, 158 law enforcement officers died in the line of duty last year. Not all of them were killed by criminals. Forty-three died in auto accidents, 12 died of heart attacks, seven were struck by vehicles, five died in motorcycle accidents, four died in vehicle pursuits, two each died of falls, aircraft accidents, and accidental gunshot wounds, and one each died of heat exhaustion, unspecified accident, training accident and boating accident.

According to FBI statistics released Monday, 56 of those law enforcement deaths were felonious, 55 by gunfire and one by motor vehicle. According to a Drug War Chronicle analysis, seven of those deaths were related to drug law enforcement. Our parameters are conservative, but unavoidably subjective, fuzzy, and open to challenge. Those incidents where officers were killed because of the way we address illicit drug use and sales are:

  • On May 3, 2010, Detroit Police Officer Brian Huff was shot and killed after responding to a 3:30am report of shots fired at "a drug house." Huff and several other officers surrounded the house. When Huff and other officers made entry, they were hit by gunfire. Huff was killed, and four other officers were wounded. The suspect, who was also wounded, was eventually sentenced to life in prison.
  • On May 20, 2010, West Memphis, Arkansas, Police Officer Bill Evans and Sgt. Brandon Paudert, who were working drug interdiction on Interstate 40, were shot and killed when they pulled over a vehicle carrying a heavily armed father and son with a serious grudge against the government. When the two officers ordered the men out of the vehicle, a struggle ensued and they were both killed by fire from an AK-47. The suspects fled, but both were later killed in separate shoot-outs with law enforcement. The Crittenden County sheriff and one of his deputies were wounded in one of the shoot-outs.
  • On July 21, 2010, George County, Mississippi, Sheriff Garry Welford was struck and killed by a vehicle being pursued by deputies. The driver of the vehicle was wanted on a warrant for failing to appear for sentencing on a narcotics charge. The driver and his passenger were later arrested and charged in connection with Welford's death
  • On July 28, 2010, Chandler, Arizona, Police Officer Carlos Luciano Ledesma was shot and killed while conducting an undercover "reverse" sting operation in Phoenix. Working with two other undercover officers, Ledesma was attempting to sell 500 pounds of marijuana when the suspects came out firing. The other officers were able to return fire, killing two suspects and taking six others into custody. The two other officers were also wounded.
  • On November 14, 2010, Green County, Georgia, Sheriff's Office Chief Deputy Kevin Roberts was shot and killed at his home by the target of a narcotics investigation the sheriff's office was undertaking. The subject had gone to his home and knocked on the door at about 8:30 am on a Sunday morning. When Chief Deputy Roberts answered the door he was fatally shot by the man, who then killed himself.

If these seven deaths all qualify as drug war-related, that means police killed as part of the drug war account for 12.5% of all felonious officer deaths. The number may seem small -- only seven dead officers -- but that is seven officers who most likely would not be dead today but for drug prohibition. And nobody seems to know how many were wounded, sometimes with grave consequences, but it is almost certain to exceed the number killed.

[Editor's Note: Nor is anybody counting how many civilians are being killed in the name of drug law enforcement -- except for Drug War Chronicle. This year, we are tallying every reported death due to US domestic drug law enforcement operations. Just for perspective, so far, we have 25 dead civilians and two dead law enforcement officers.]

"One dead police officer is too many in my book, said Neill Franklin, a 34-year veteran of the Baltimore Police Department and Maryland State Police who now heads the group Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP). "If we can save one life through drug policy reform, it's worth it to me."

"I may have to die as a cop, but I certainly don't want to die just because some 13-year-old is slinging crack," said Peter Moskos, a former Baltimore police officer and author of Cop in the Hood, who is now on the faculty of the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York City.

There are ways to reduce that likelihood, both men said. They range from harm reduction measures such as decriminalizing marijuana possession, decriminalizing all drug possession, and providing heroin maintenance for addicts, to rebuilding police-community relations, especially in the inner cities, to revisiting and revising police tactics, particularly SWAT-style no-knock raids and perhaps those "reverse sting" operations, to shifting police resources and priorities.

"Why are the cops selling pot?" asked an incredulous Moskos as he reviewed the killing of Chandler Police Officer Ledesma in a "reverse sting" gone horribly awry. "Why sell 500 pounds of marijuana? What were you hoping to do?"

"We're starting to see marijuana decriminalization in more states, and I think that's important," said Franklin, citing New York City's policy of mass stop and frisks and mass marijuana possession arrests, almost always against young people of color. "If more states starting moving toward decriminalization, we could relieve some of the pressure from this steaming tea kettle. That would make for a more relaxed environment between police and young people. Prohibition has made our communities extremely tense and dangerous, and the cops are on edge. We have to rebuild this relationship."

"We can fight the war on drugs less," said Moskos. "Police do have discretion. They can focus on other crimes and shift resources accordingly."

And they could rethink the gung-ho paramilitary raids, said Moskos. "I always think of David Koresh and the Branch Davidians in Waco," he said. "They could have just picked him up at McDonald's. But from the cop perspective, these raids are pretty safe. They represent a shift in police mentality. They're not so safe for civilians, but that's a risk police are willing to take. They would rather have collateral damage than damage to their own ranks."

Both Franklin and Moskos said that only counting incidents where there is a direct drug war connection probably results in undercounting the number of police officers killed because of drug prohibition. The case of Georgia State Patrol Officer Chadwick LeCoy, which didn't make the list, is illustrative of the broader impact of decades of drug war on the safety of police. LeCroy was shot and killed after a short vehicle pursuit on December 27. He wasn't enforcing the drug laws, but the driver who killed him had extensive experience with the criminal justice system, including prior drug, firearms, and eluding police convictions.

Given the millions of drug arrests in the past few decades, the tens of millions of years worth of prison sentences handed out, the lives knocked off track by a drug-based encounter with the criminal justice system, it is no leap of the imagination to think there are plenty of people out there nursing very serious grudges -- grudges that might manifest themselves as attacks on police even if there is no immediate drug link.

"Maybe we need a separate category: this would not have occurred if drugs were not illegal," said Moskos. "If someone has a long record because of drugs and then shoots at a cop at traffic stop, that could fit that category. Police get the brunt of it because of the war on drugs."

"These decades of drug war have poisoned the well," said Franklin, recalling his teenage years in Baltimore. The kids would be hanging out, and when the patrol car rolled around the corner, they would chat and joke with the officer before he went on his way, he said.

"Now, in that same neighborhood, when a police call turns the corner, the first thing you hear is shouts of '5-0' and everyone scatters," he related. "If I tried to talk to them, they were very standoffish and using words you don't want to repeat. It's a very antagonistic and uncomfortable situation; you can feel the tension. They will tell you they don't trust the police and that the police mainly come into their neighborhoods to search them, their cars, and their homes for drugs. The foundation for this separation of police and community is our drug policies and the environment they create."

There are ways to reduce the death toll, both law enforcement and civilian, in the war on drugs. We know what they are and how important the task is. The problem is political will. And the very law enforcement organizations whose officers' lives could be saved are among the biggest obstacles to change.

[Click here for a Flickr slideshow from the 2011 NLEOMF Candlelight Vigil.)

Drug Warriors Gun Down Young Father (Opinion)

Location: 
AZ
United States
James Peron, President of the Moorfield Storey Institute, recounts the recent drug prohibition related death of a young husband, father, and Iraq veteran who was shot at 71 times by heavily armed men who then allegedly prevented medical assistance from being given until he was dead. The heavily armed men were from the Pima County Sheriff's Department. Another drug raid gone bad.
Publication/Source: 
The Huffington Post (CA)
URL: 
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/james-peron/jose-guerena_b_863278.html

Tucson SWAT Team Kills Armed Homeowner in Drug Raid

[Editor's Note: This year, Drug War Chronicle is trying to track every death directly attributable to drug law enforcement during the year. We can use your help. If you come across a news account of a killing related to drug law enforcement, please send us an email at psmith@drcnet.org.]

The Pima County SWAT team is under the spotlight. (Image courtesy Pima County Sheriff's Office)
In a mid-morning drug raid May 5, a Pima County SWAT team executing a search warrant shot and killed a 26-year-old Afghan and Iraq war veteran after he confronted the intruders with a weapon in his hand. Jose Guerena become the 27th person to die in US domestic drug law enforcement operations so far this year. (Actually, he was the 25th, but the Pima County Sheriff's office has been so dilatory in releasing information that we logged two more drug war deaths before we were able add this one to the list.)

According to the initial police account, when SWAT officers broke down the door of Guerena's home, which he shared with his wife and young child, he confronted them and opened fire. "The adult male had a long rifle, opened fire on the SWAT team. The SWAT team returned fire and the male is pronounced deceased. The woman and the child are unharmed," said Pima County Sheriff's Deputy Jason Ogan.

Six days later, police admitted that while Guerena, a former Marine, was holding an AR-15 assault rifle, the safety was on and he had not fired it. They also admitted that SWAT officers fired 71 rounds at Guerena in seven seconds. It was also later reported that even though Guerena's wife called 911 as soon as he was shot and that EMTs arrived two minutes later, deputies never allowed them to treat Guerena, citing security concerns. (Recall that in the Jared Loughner mass killing in Tucson earlier this year, EMTs were allowed to treat the wounded in a matter of minutes despite the chaos of that scene.)

In an interview with KGUN9-TV, Guerena's wife, Vanessa, explained that her husband had worked the night shift at his job at a mine and been asleep only a couple of hours when the raiders arrived. When she saw armed men in her house pointing guns at her, she said, "Please don't shoot, I have a baby... and I yell 'Jose! Jose! Wake up!'"

The SWAT team didn't identify itself before breaking in her door and entering her home, Guerena said. "You're saying [they] only yelled SWAT after the shootout?" KGUN9asked. "Oh, yes! Yes," said Guerena.

Her husband grabbed a gun to protect himself from what he thought were home invaders, she said.

Police said Guerena's home was one of four targeted in simultaneous raids and that a large amount of cash was found in one of them. It wasn't Guerena's. All they have said about what they found there was that it was "evidence pertinent to the case."

But at a Wednesday memorial service for the veteran of deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan, an attorney retained by his family, Christopher Scileppi, told FOX11-TV that Guerena was not part of any drug conspiracy. "What I do know is that they collected phones, computers the family has conveyed to me that they're confident that there is nothing that will be of inculpatory incriminating information," said Scileppi.

No lawsuit has yet been filed, but Scileppi is laying the groundwork. "We'll be sending our investigators out to find out what the neighbors saw, what mutual observers saw because this was obviously a big deal certainly to the Pima County sheriff's office," he said.

Tucson, AZ
United States

Drug War Issues

Criminal JusticeAsset Forfeiture, Collateral Sanctions (College Aid, Drug Taxes, Housing, Welfare), Court Rulings, Drug Courts, Due Process, Felony Disenfranchisement, Incarceration, Policing (2011 Drug War Killings, 2012 Drug War Killings, 2013 Drug War Killings, 2014 Drug War Killings, 2015 Drug War Killings, Arrests, Eradication, Informants, Interdiction, Lowest Priority Policies, Police Corruption, Police Raids, Profiling, Search and Seizure, SWAT/Paramilitarization, Task Forces, Undercover Work), Probation or Parole, Prosecution, Reentry/Rehabilitation, Sentencing (Alternatives to Incarceration, Clemency and Pardon, Crack/Powder Cocaine Disparity, Death Penalty, Decriminalization, Defelonization, Drug Free Zones, Mandatory Minimums, Rockefeller Drug Laws, Sentencing Guidelines)CultureArt, Celebrities, Counter-Culture, Music, Poetry/Literature, Television, TheaterDrug UseParaphernalia, ViolenceIntersecting IssuesCollateral Sanctions (College Aid, Drug Taxes, Housing, Welfare), Violence, Border, Budgets/Taxes/Economics, Business, Civil Rights, Driving, Economics, Education (College Aid), Employment, Environment, Families, Free Speech, Gun Policy, Human Rights, Immigration, Militarization, Money Laundering, Pregnancy, Privacy (Search and Seizure, Drug Testing), Race, Religion, Science, Sports, Women's IssuesMarijuana PolicyGateway Theory, Hemp, Marijuana -- Personal Use, Marijuana Industry, Medical MarijuanaMedicineMedical Marijuana, Science of Drugs, Under-treatment of PainPublic HealthAddiction, Addiction Treatment (Science of Drugs), Drug Education, Drug Prevention, Drug-Related AIDS/HIV or Hepatitis C, Harm Reduction (Methadone & Other Opiate Maintenance, Needle Exchange, Overdose Prevention, Safe Injection Sites)Source and Transit CountriesAndean Drug War, Coca, Hashish, Mexican Drug War, Opium ProductionSpecific DrugsAlcohol, Ayahuasca, Cocaine (Crack Cocaine), Ecstasy, Heroin, Ibogaine, ketamine, Khat, Marijuana (Gateway Theory, Marijuana -- Personal Use, Medical Marijuana, Hashish), Methamphetamine, New Synthetic Drugs (Synthetic Cannabinoids, Synthetic Stimulants), Nicotine, Prescription Opiates (Fentanyl, Oxycontin), Psychedelics (LSD, Mescaline, Peyote, Salvia Divinorum)YouthGrade School, Post-Secondary School, Raves, Secondary School