Ex-Marine's lawyer opens up about SWAT, questions Sheriff

Ex-Marine's lawyer opens up about SWAT, questions Sheriff

CREATED May 19, 2011

Reporter: Joel Waldman
Web Producer: Layla Tang

TUCSON (KGUN9-TV) - The same day the Pima County Sheriff's Department issued a letter blasting the media's coverage of the SWAT shooting death of Jose Guerena, the Guerena family's attorney is demanding even more answers from authorities.

The May 5 shooting lasted only ten seconds. SWAT burst into a Tucson man's home on a drug search warrant, fired more than 70 rounds, and left the Iraq and Afghanistan war veteran lying on the floor, fighting for his life. Guerena's wife, Vanessa, emerged from the closet she was hiding in with her young son and called for help. She was left alone in the house with her dying husband for about ten minutes after the shooting.

Christopher Scileppi, the family's attorney, wants to know where SWAT was during that time, and why they didn't seek medical help for Guerena. He said he understands that law enforcement usually won't let paramedics run into a potential crime scene until the area has been secured, but he feels that SWAT should have cleared the home within minutes of the shooting.

"Is it your understanding that protocol would call for SWAT to go through the home, clear it, and bring Vanessa and the child out, and not let them linger in there for ten minutes?" asked 9 On Your Side reporter Joel Waldman.

"It is my understanding, and considering what happened and the size of the house, that wouldn't have taken very long at all," Scileppi said, adding that his biggest concern is that Guerena wasn't given medical care after he'd been shot. "I think it's tragic on so many levels. On a human, level, it's tragic. My biggest question is, why was he denied medical attention?"

Paramedics were standing by, but were not allowed to enter the home, despite Vanessa's pleas to a 911 operator. After an hour and 14 minutes of waiting, emergency responders received word that Guerena was deceased.

"His last thoughts were, 'I'm defending my home, my wife and children from a home invasion.'" Scileppi told KGUN9.

The search warrants remain sealed, but Sheriff Clarence Dupnik did open up. The Sheriff's office released a statement Wednesday, calling out the media's "irresponsibility" in asking questions about this case, saying "it is unacceptable and irresponsible to couch those questions with implications of secrecy and a cover-up."

Scileppi said he took issue with the letter and said the media has helped open the door in answering some puzzling questions. He is expected to announce his collaboration Thursday with a prestigious law firm to help litigate the case.

KGUN9 On Your Side has also learned that the SWAT team has also brought aboard its own attorney, Mike Storey. He represents many law enforcement unions throughout southern Arizona. He declined to speak to KGUN9, but did promise to give some answers on Thursday.