What began as a carefully orchestrated drug raid by Arizona police ended in chaos, bloodshed and outrage. Now, a young Marine veteran is dead, leaving his wife and two young boys to mourn for him on this Memorial Day, after he made it through two tours in Iraq.
The tragic assault also opened a rare window into the military-style tactics and equipment of police Special Weapons Assault Teams locked in a bloody war with Mexican drug cartels — including military-style armored vehicles and two types of robots also found on the battlefields of Afghanistan.
The May 5 assault by a Pima County SWAT team on an address on Red Water Street, outside Tucson, was meant to apprehend a suspected member of a “rip crew” — a team of heavily-armed thugs, working for one of the cartels, that steals drugs from rival cartels. The special-weapons team, made up of at least seven men and seen in the leaked helmet-camera footage above, would pull up in a “Bearcat” vehicle — a sort of law-enforcement-optimized Humvee. Then they’d bust into the single-story house, hold the occupants at gunpoint and serve a search warrant, looking for drugs, illegal weapons and other evidence of cartel involvement. Just another day for a team accustomed to risky missions.
But something went very wrong. And within seconds of ramming in the door, the SWAT team opened fire, killing Jose Guerena, the owner of the house. Guerena, a 26-year-old Marine veteran, reportedly confronted the police with an AR-15 semi-automatic assault rifle, possibly to protect his wife kids, who were huddled in rooms behind him.