Public confidence in law enforcement is essential to maintaining a free and orderly society. The thin blue line frequently finds itself under attack from the left, so it’s natural for conservatives to come readily to its defense. This instinct should be resisted when police make serious mistakes and engage in a cover-up instead of asking forgiveness from the public.
Such is the case with the May 5 SWAT team raid that left Jose Guerena, an honorably discharged Marine who served two tours of duty in Iraq, dead in his Tucson, Ariz., home. Awakened by his door being battered in, Guerena told his wife and 4-year-old son to hide in the closet while he went to the door in his boxer shorts, armed with a rifle to thwart intruders.
There, five SWAT officers - hiding behind riot shields and clad in thick body armor - burst through, unleashing a volley of 71 bullets toward Guerena. They then retreated, leaving Guerena to bleed to death without medical attention for more than an hour.
The SWAT team supervisor gave a statement to investigators immediately after the incident. “Yeah, I, I was scared,” said Pima County Sheriff’s Department Sgt. Bob Krygier. “If you look at the house, you see the bullets are flying right through everything.” All of those bullets came from the officers - the safety on Guerena’s weapon was active. The reckless gunfire riddled nearby occupied homes with bullets. No incriminating evidence was found in the home aside from firearms and body armor that a former member of the armed services might have. Police also found a baseball cap with a Border Patrol logo. Guerena had intended to apply for a job at the agency.
When police informed Vanessa Guerena that her husband was dead, she said, “What were you guys thinking? What am I gonna do with my kids, without his dad? Tell me. Why did they do this? Why?” So far, Pima County Sheriff Clarence W. Dupnik has not provided a satisfactory answer. Instead of offering transparency, his department circled the wagons and leaked deceptive information to the media. For example, the baseball cap was described as “part of a police uniform” and meant to justify the raid by implying Guerena was part of a home-invasion ring.
Time will tell whether Guerena was a fully innocent victim or not. Yet so long as government-sponsored home-invasion rings are allowed to operate with shoot-first orders more appropriate for a SEAL team hunting Osama bin Laden, more innocent bystanders are going to pay the price.