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Raw Video: Sheriff Dupnik opens up about fatal SWAT raid

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On Thursday, Sheriff Clarence Dupnik broke his long public silence about the May 5 SWAT shooting that claimed the life of former U.S. Marine Jose Guerena, and sat down for an extended interview with KGUN9 News Anchor Jennifer Waddell. He addressed questions about why authorities felt it necessary to dispatch a SWAT team that day to execute a series of search warrants, and also talked about other issues surrounding the controversial shooting. The sheriff made the startling revelation that he believes Guerena greeted the SWAT team with a rifle because Guerena thought he was about to be arrested on a charge of murder.

Guerena has family ties to two people who were shot to death in a double homicide last year. The murders of Cynthia and Manuel Orozco remain unsolved. Someone shot the couple to death in their home on Tucson's west side March 29 of last year, leaving the victims' two children orphaned.

Sheriff Dupnik declined to say whether his office's investigation has connected Guerena directly or indirectly to that or any other specific murder case. He did say that the office of County Attorney Barbara LaWall has that information and will be releasing it soon.

Guerena died May 5 shortly after a team of SWAT officers broke down his door in an attempt to serve a search warrant related to a drug conspiracy investigation. The team fired a total of 71 shots, with 22 of them hitting Guerena. The Sheriff's Department and the SWAT team attorney have said that the officers were forced to open fire after Guerena pointed a rifle at them. Guerena's wife claims she and her husband did not know at the time who was breaking down their door.

In the interview, the sheriff told Waddell that the shooting was fully justified, that the Pima County Regional SWAT team is one of the best in the nation, and that law abiding citizens have no need to fear the possibility of a confrontation with police officers.

A seven and a half minute rough-edited clip containing highlights of Jennifer Waddell's interview with Sheriff Dupnik is available in the "Video Gallery" box on the upper left hand corner of this page. A transcript of those highlights is presented below.

Waddell: I'm going to go back almost 20 months with you. There were two murders here in Tucson, the Orozco family... Do you have any reason to believe that Guerena in some way may have been tied to that?

Dupnik: There are some aspects of this investigation that are very critical, and, it's not - I don't think it would be professional for me to start answering those kinds of questions. The County Attorney is very involved with us in this investigation. And there's no doubt in my mind that at some point in the not too distant future there are going to be a number of arrests made.

Waddell: Back in 2009, Garcia Morena was found shot and burned in the desert... Any possibility that he might have been connected to this?

Dupnik: I don't know. My feeling is that the reason he came not to the door, but entered the hallway with an assault rifle pointed, the only reason none of us were shot, is because he forgot the safety was on. And by the time he realized, he was shot. But my feeling is the reason he came with that gun is that he thought we were there to arrest him for murder.

Waddell: Is there any explanation as to the mixup, because Storie has come out and said, look, we thought he wasn't going to be home, or, we didn't know the wife and kids were going to be home.

Dupnik: I don't have an explanation, but that's not the facts that I have. We had reason to believe that he probably was going to be there. We also had reason to believe that the kids may not, and the mother, because they were supposed to be at school. That was their normal pattern. But we did not conduct the surveillance that day because we would have been identified. We can't do that. First of all, when we are serving a search warrant on a property, it's typical for when the people find out that you're outside the house, the start destroying evidence that they can, burning documents, and things of this nature. That's one of the reasons that we don't do that. We had no reason at all to believe that this was anything other than any of the multitude of other search warrants that we've served where we never had a problem. We had no reason to believe that this guy was going to do that. But because he is part of a very violent organization, we considered it high risk.

Waddell: There have been a lot of people who have started to call for changes in SWAT protocol in general - the way that things are surveilled, the way that the operation is conducted itself. We've even had one of your former colleagues, the Graham County Sheriff, come out and say, look, I've worked with Sheriff Dupnik and I think it's time to make some changes. One, what do you say to those critics who are calling for changes in SWAT protocol? And two, do you think that maybe it is time to review some of the policies?

Dupnik: We're always reviewing our policies. And that's one of the purposes of our shooting board, which is going to be meeting next week. But as far as the other criticisms, let me tell you that Pima County has a nationally-recognized SWAT team. As a matter of fact, one of our commanders goes all over the country instructing other organizations on SWAT techniques and protocol. We have one that's known internationally, Dr. Richard Carmona, who goes all over the world talking about SWAT. In my judgment, we have a premiere SWAT organization, and at this point I don't see any need to -- This was an unfortunate situation that was provoked by the person himself.

Waddell: So you don't see any need at this point to make any changes.

Dupnik: Well, I'm going to let the shooting review board, which is going to be comprised of the four agencies that had people involved in this particular shooting.

Waddell: I think people don't realize that this Pima regional SWAT team is that, that there are members coming from different organizations, not just the Pima County Sheriff's Department.

Dupnik: That's correct.

Waddell: Oro Valley, Marana, Sahuarita.

Dupnik: In this particular case we had officers, from those three organizations, as well as our own, which makes four, having officers involved in this particular shooting.

Waddell: We have had some viewers who have come out and said, look, how do I know that the SWAT team isn't going to bust into my house and shoot me dead in my house for what they would say is no reason. What would you say to the community to address some of those concerns of perhaps mishandling?

Dupnik: I don't think anything was mishandled. Unfortunately, this individual points an assault rifle at cops. You do that, you are going to get killed. And the community has no reason to be concerned about it. We have a national reputation. We have been doing this for many years. And our organization as I said is nationally recognized as one of the most proficient. It's not an issue. We average about 50 of these searches of where we have to have a search warrant from judge. And law abiding people don't have to worry about confrontation with the cops.

Waddell: There's old saying that if you're not doing something you're not supposed to, you're not going to find yourself in this position to begin with. Would you agree with that?

Dupnik: Absolutely. Unfortunately in this particular case, the printed media, in this case, for whatever reason, decided to beat Dupnik up, over the head, with a sledge hammer because he's not behaving in a way that they, that he normally does. [Editor's note: Dupnik appears to be referring to The Arizona Daily Star, which ran three editorials and one opinion column in one week demanding the immediate release of more information in the case.] And I tried to explain to them with a press release saying we had some serious issues here with the safety of individuals, and as soon as those are resolved, you can have all the information. we've already told you what happened at the scene. How many agencies would tell the press, the very next day, we gave you some very bad critical information. We knew that was going to cause a firestorm of media activity. We told 'em that they were in a firefight. The fact of the matter is, several of those SWAT members thought that they were in a firefight. When we find out that they weren't, we let the media know immediately.

Added: Jun-3-2011 Occurred On: Jun-2-2011
By: Arizona_Patriot
Regional News
Tags: Raw, Video, Sheriff, Dupnik, opens, up, about, fatal, SWAT, raid, former, U.S., Marine, Jose, Guerena, Tucson, Arizona,
Location: Tucson, Arizona, United States (load item map)
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