Family of Marine vet killed by SWAT team awarded $3.4 million settlement
Jose Guerena’s wife, Vanessa, will receive the $3.4 million agreed to last week after a two-year legal battle between the Marine veteran’s estate and Pima County, Arizona.
Guerena died two years ago when a SWAT team entered his house in the early morning hours of May 5, 2011 and fired dozens of rounds of ammunition from semi-automatic weapons. Guerena’s wife reportedly woke him up abruptly that morning after being concerned with noises coming from outside of the house. An investigation revealed that Guerena was holding a legally owned AR-15 for protection when the officers entered his home, though he never once pulled the trigger on his own weapon.
Guerena, 26, was fatally wounded in the one-sided shootout after being struck with 22 of the 71 shots fired by the SWAT team.
Officers had been dispatched to the Guerena residence as part of a drug trafficking investigation. A Grand Jury investigation released after his death suggested that Guerena and some members of his family were involved in a narcotics ring, and the county attorney’s office ultimately cleared the SWAT officers of any wrongdoing, KVOA News reported.
According to the Arizona Daily Star, the Pima County Sheriff’s Department did not want to reach a settlement but suggested that taxpayers would have to front an even larger cost if Guerena’s family brought the issue to court.
“The Pima County Sheriff’s Department strongly believes the events of May 5, 2011, were unfortunate and tragic, but the officers performed that day in accordance with their training and nationally recognized standards,” Deputy Tracy Suitt wrote. “However, legal advisers and insurers recognize the unpredictable resolution of disputes at trial regarding police conduct and even well-accepted police tactics. As a result, well-established business and insurance principles call for compromise and the resolution of disputed cases to mitigate risk and avoid the expense of a trial.”
Pima County Administrator Chuck Huckleberry called the agreement a “calculated risk-management settlement,” the Daily Star reported.
According to the paper, Pima and its insurance company will pay $2.35 million towards the settlement. The towns of Marana, Oro Valley and Sahuarita, Arizona will all chip in towards the $3.4 million sum as well. Law enforcement agencies from all towns were being sued by the Guerena estate for allegedly acting negligently throughout the ordeal. According to the suit, emergency responders denied providing any medical assistance to Guerena until more than an hour after he was shot.