Give someone a hammer and they’ll likely go looking for something to pound. Suddenly, almost everything looks like a nail.
Create a Special Weapons And Tactics (SWAT) team and they’ll likely go looking for doors to kick in, windows to smash, and miscreant suspects to waste. Suddenly, everyone in their sights looks like John Dillinger.
SWAT teams are elite military style special police units, originally conceived by Los Angeles police inspector, Daryl Gates, in 1968 to deal with special situations. They’re specifically trained to handle especially dangerous missions such as hostage taking situations, heavily armed standoff’s with desperate criminals, and terrorist take downs similar to the recent Osama bin Laden raid.
Now every one-stoplight hamlet in America has one. The paramilitary teams each come armed to the teeth with all manner of specialised weapons and equipment, including flash and stun grenades, assault and sniper rifles, sub machine guns, together with helicopters, armored vehicles, heavy body armor, night vision goggles, and anti-ballistic shields. They’re trained hard and constantly to storm buildings in military fashion, shoot first and ask questions later.
And so it was on
May 5, 2011, when Jose Guerena, an ex U.S. Marine, and Iraq war veteran, was gunned down dead in a hail of bullets inside his Tucson Arizona home. His wife looked on in horror as a Pima County Sheriff’s Department SWAT team raided the place to execute a common search warrant, kicked down the front door, and opened fire at the hapless suspect in the middle of the night.
The cops thought Guerena was involved in recreational drug smuggling. All in all, within a matter of seconds, approximately 70 shots were fired, at least 22 of which riddled Guerena’s body. No shots were fired by the suspect. His gun was later found still locked in safety position. After summarily wasting the guy, a search of his home was conducted which came up with nothing illegal.
Notwithstanding these exceedingly gruesome and incredible facts, an attorney defending the five murderous sherriff’s deputies insists that: "They absolutely responded how they were trained. They responded within Arizona laws, within the law throughout the nation," … "If you are faced with that type of deadly threat, you're allowed to respond."
He’s right. That’s exactly how they are trained. They’re a SWAT team and they’re going to go out and SWAT the bad guys. Every threat is a deadly threat. Every mission is a dangerous mission. Every suspect is a potential cop killer in the War on Drugs.
Every situation demands surprise confrontational force, door kicking, window smashing, grenade tossing, guns blazing, and shooting to kill at the slightest hint of possible resistance. The old days when cops used to talk a suspect into compliance are long gone in Tuscon.
There is no rationality, no consideration, no finesse today. Now they just arrive in a flash of raw power and blast their quarry into oblivion. It doesn’t seem to matter anymore that innocent people might be involved; they might have the wrong house; the wrong guy; innocent children; or no actual potential danger presented.
The SWAT teams need constant training to sharpen their skills, so if there are no hostage crises’ available, their skills will necessarily be employed to execute petty search warrants and apprehend jaywalkers.
We’re not talking about serial killers here. Guerena was suspected of drug smuggling, hardly a heinous or dangerous crime. Why not just knock politely, wait till he comes to the door, and execute their search warrant like cops have been doing successfully since law enforcement was invented?
The five deputies involved in this murder by cop case remain on the SWAT team. No criminal charges have been filed and no disciplinary action taken.