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Tuesday, May 31, 2011

'What Were You Guys Thinking? Why Did You Kill Him?'

William Norman Grigg

'Why, why did you kill him?' a traumatized Vanessa Guerena begged to know as she was interrogated in a makeshift 'command center' by detectives from the same Sheriff's Office that had just slaughtered her husband Jose. Her questioners, eager to exploit her trauma to extract information, initially refused to give her a straightforward answer.

Jose, who had finished a graveyard shift at the Asarco copper mine, was sleeping when a SWAT team from the Pima County Sheriff's Office laid siege to his home on the morning of May 5. Vanessa was doing laundry, and the couple's four-year-old son Joel was watching Transformers, when the SWAT raiders pulled up in a Bear Cat armored vehicle.

The siren sounded for less than ten seconds; just a few seconds later, the order to 'breach' the door was given because, as on-scene commander Deputy Bob Krygier later explained, nobody inside the house had 'submitted to our authority.'

Vanessa initially thought that there was an emergency 'somewhere in the neighborhood,' and called the police. When she saw armed intruders on her property, Vanessa screamed for her husband to wake up. Jose told Vanessa to take their younger son (whose older brother, Jose, Jr., was in school) and hide in the closet, while he went to confront the invaders.

Seconds later, Jose was sprawled face-first in a pool of his own blood, shredded by dozens of rounds fired by the SWAT team. That's how his four-year-old son would later find him. Joel was left alone after Vanessa, who had gone out to plead for someone to get medical help for her husband, was assaulted and brutalized by the SWAT operators and then detained for questioning. The child remained alone in the house with the body of his dead father while Krygier developed a 'tactical team' to extract the child at minimal risk. That is, minimal risk to the berserkers who had just killed Joel's dad.

As the minutes dragged on, one of the SWAT operators – according to Krygier – grew impatient over being forbidden to enter the home.

'Might as well finish what I started,' groused the armored assailant. I suspect he wasn't referring to the need to render timely medical aid, unless he intended to administer 'one behind the ear' as a form of Kevorkian-style treatment.

Krygier and his little band of heroes were decked out in full SWAT regalia – "I had my body armor on, a duty belt with a side holster, a ballistic helmet, clear sunglasses, [and] a handgun," he later reported. Yet the paramount consideration of "officer safety" prevented SWAT team members from rescuing Joel in a timely fashion, or even confirming first-hand that Jose was dead. Rather than rendering aid, or permitting the paramedics to treat Jose, the SWAT team – bold, valiant badasses, every one of them – huddled in the Bear Cat and sent in a robot to poke and nudge the victim to make sure he was dead.

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