A U.S. Marine who was killed when he was gunned down in his home near Tucson, Arizona, never fired on the SWAT team that stormed his house firing 70 times in a hail of bullets, a report has revealed.
The revelation came as dramatic footage of the shooting was released, showing the armed team pounding down the door of Jose Guerena’s home and opening fire.
The father-of-two, who had served twice in Iraq, died on May 5 after the SWAT team descended on his home believing it was one of four houses associated with a drug smuggling operation.
The terrifying footage shows the uniformed team pulling up outside Jose Guerena’s home, sounding their sirens and banging on the door before kicking it in.
The sound of bullets then rings out as they open fire shortly after entering the home.
A police investigation revealed that officers fired more than 70 shots.
Deputies said they opened fire after Guerena, 26, gestured at them with an AR-15, according to the report.
Some of the officers said they believed that Guerena fired on them, but the investigation showed that no shots were fired from the weapon and it was never taken off the safety position.
Police allege that the former Marine was involved in drug smuggling, robbery and human smuggling.
But a search of the home found nothing illegal. Officers found a handgun and body armour in the house.
The five SWAT team members remain on active duty. No criminal charges have been filed and no disciplinary action taken.
Mr Guerena’s wife, Vanessa, said she heard her husband moaning as he lay dying, his body struck by 22 of the bullets.
Ms Guerena told ABC News: ‘I saw his stomach, all the blood on the floor’.
She said her goal now is to ‘clear his good name’. Ms Guerena said their son Joel keeps asking about his deceased father, ‘Is he a bad guy?’
The Tucson SWAT team responsible for the May 5 house shooting defended its actions, saying the team was conducting a multi-house drug investigation based on a search warrant when they saw Mr Guerena aiming an assault rifle at them.
At first, the SWAT team had said Mr Guerena fired first, but then they retracted that statement, saying he had left the safety on.
SWAT team lawyer Mike Storie claimed weapons and body armour were found in the home, as well as a photo of Jesus Malverde, who Mr Storie called a ‘patron saint drug runner’.
In a statement, the sheriff’s office criticised those questioning the team, saying, ‘It is unacceptable and irresponsible to couch those questions with implications of secrecy and a cover up, not to mention questioning the legality of actions that could not have been taken without the approval of an impartial judge’.
On the night of the raid, Ms Guerena said her husband was asleep, after having worked a night shift at the Asarco copper mine. She said she then saw the armed SWAT team outside her youngest son’s bedroom window.
Reyna Ortiz, 29, a relative of the family, told reporters: ‘She saw a man pointing at her with a gun. She yelled, “Don’t shoot! I have a baby!”‘
Ms Guerena alleges that she thought it was a criminal assault, since two members of her sister-in-law’s family, Cynthia and Manny Orozco, had been killed last year in their Tucson home.
Ms Guerena said she shouted for her husband, who told her to take young Joel and hide in a closet.
After the shooting, Ms Guerena says she emerged from the closet. ‘They came into the house to get me,’ she told ABC reporters.
She told a 9-11 operator: ‘They were… going to shoot me. And I put my kid in front of me’, according to ABC.
Crying, she also told the operator: ‘He’s on the floor! Can you please hurry up?’
When she encountered the SWAT team, ‘the only thing I told them was take care of him, take him to a hospital,’ Ms Guerena told ABC.
An ambulance reportedly arrived in a few minutes, but medical personnel were not allowed inside to see Mr Guerena for an hour and 14 minutes, the family’s attorney, Chris Scileppi, told ABC News affiliate KGUN.
In contrast, it took responders only 12 minutes to address Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, who was shot in Tucson in January, according to Mr Scileppi.
Mr Storie defended the SWAT team’s actions, saying, ‘They still don’t know how many shooters are inside, how many guns are inside and they still have to assume that they will be ambushed if they walk in this house’.
Mr Scileppi accused officers of ‘circling their wagons’.
‘The pieces don’t fit. I think it was poor planning, overreaction and now they’re trying to CYA’, Scileppi told ABC.
Mr Guerena served two tours of duty in Iraq, until he left the Marines in 2006. He had been working for a mining company in the Tucson area.
ABC interviewed his former commander, Sergeant Leo Verdugo, who told them he ‘definitely pulled his weight’.
‘I have a hard time grasping how something so tragic could happen’, he told the network.
The Guerena’s oldest boy, Jose, turns 6 Tuesday. Ms Ortiz told ABC, ‘He went to school, came back and never saw his daddy again. He’s asking, “Why did the police kill my daddy?”
‘We were so worried when he was over there fighting terrorism, but he gets shot in his own home. The government killed one of their own’, Ms Ortiz said.
Mr Guerena was buried in his Marine dress blue uniform.