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Friday, June 24, 2011

The Word Is 'Impunity'

by William Grigg

The actions of five Tucson SWAT operators who invaded Jose Guerena's home, hit him with 22 out of at least 71 shots (thereby endangering Guerena's wife and child, hiding in a closet), and then prevented medical treatment for an hour while the victim bled to death, were "justified," according to David Berkman, Pima County Deputy Attorney.

Guerena, who had slept for about two hours after finishing a midnight shift at the local copper mine, was clad only in his boxer shorts when his terrified wife Vanessa told him that there were armed men on their property. The former Marine, who served two combat tours in Iraq, told Vanessa to take their toddler Joel and hide in the closet. He reportedly armed himself with an AR-15 -- referred to by Berkman as an "assault rifle," owing to the fact that it was in the unhallowed hands of a Mundane -- to confront the invaders. Guerena never fired a shot, and the safety was engaged when the weapon was found on the floor next to his body.

"The officers were mistaken in believing that Mr. Guerena fired at them," Berkman wrote in a letter to Sheriff Clarence Dupnik, who commanded the home invasion crew that murdered Guerena. "However, when Mr. Guerena raised the AR-15 ... in their direction, they needed to take immediate action to stop the deadly threat against them."

Dupnik's Raiders -- who, by the Sheriff's admission, carry out about 50 "warrant-enforcement" actions a year, or about one a week -- outnumbered Guerena five-to-one; they were clad in body armor and protected by ballistic shields. They were involved in an act of criminal aggression (the fact that they had an official-sounding permission slip doesn't change the moral nature of their behavior) against the Guerena household. The only morally and legally defensible response to Guerena's act of self-defense was to retreat, regroup, and negotiate. As a group of armed robbers, the SWAT team had no right to use lethal force to protect itself. Furthermore, the act of preventing medical assistance, taken alone, makes the death of Jose Guerena an instance of second degree murder through depraved indifference, given that his wounds were survivable.

The "justification" offered by Berkman and Dupnik -- and being retailed uncritically by the Arizona Republic -- is that Guerena, who was never charged with a crime, let alone prosecuted or convicted, was a "person of interest" in a narcotics investigation. He was arrested in 2009 on drug and gun charges, which were dropped for lack of evidence. In other words, Guerena was cleared of wrong-doing long before the death squad darkened his doorway. The affidavit requesting a search warrant is drenched in innuendo and barren of actual evidence against Guerena. As the Republic reported, the SWAT team was "looking for evidence connecting Guerena to a suspected drug organization involving his brother [and] his sister-in-law, among others"; the needless lethal raid yielded exactly the amount of evidence that would have resulted from a conventional search -- zero.

However, because the gang that employed Dupnik's Raiders has, as St. Augustine put it, given themselves impunity, its enforcement arm was given license to kill Guerena, and invent a justification after the fact. Thus the internal inquiry -- in which the administrative branch of a criminal gang "investigated" the armed marauders who enforce their will and gather loot on their behalf -- has "cleared" the killers of wrong-doing before the case even went to trial.

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