The attorney for the family of Jose Guerena, the ex-Marine gunned down in his own home as a Pima County SWAT team burst in, has filed a notice of claim. Such a legal maneuver lays the groundwork for a damage-seeking lawsuit.
Earlier reports said that the lawsuit will seek $20 million in damages from the Pima County Sheriff’s Office, several Pima County municipalities, and the SWAT team members. It will claim that the SWAT team used excessive force and was negligent in the raid.
Guerena, who shared the home with his wife and young son, died after SWAT team members fired 71 rounds at him as they burst through his door and confronted him in his underwear in a hallway holding a weapon. The fatal May 5 raid was part of a series of raids that day in what police said was the investigation of a drug rip-off gang.
But no drugs, cash, or illegal items were found at Guerena’s home, and, to date, no one has been arrested for anything in relation to that investigation or those raids. The officers involved in the raid have already been exonerated of any wrongdoing by local officials.
On Friday, Guerena family attorney Chris Scileppi told Fox 11 News that a newly released sheriff’s department video showing Vanessa Guerena being pulled from the house and 4-year-old Joel Guerena running to safety after his father had been shot demonstrated just how horrific Guerena’s death at the hands of police had been.
“They just give a snapshot of the horror that his wife his small child went through as they crawled past their dying husband and dying father,” said Scileppi.
Two days earlier, Scileppi filed the 15-page claim outlining what it calls reckless actions by the SWAT team. “They were negligent and grossly negligent in how they performed this the execution of this warrant in killing Mr. Guerena,” said Scileppi. The $20 million figure would “accommodate the children’s loss of their father,” he said. “No amount of money can replace Mr. Guerena to his wife, to his children, to his family.”
The two sides have 60 days from last week to reach an agreement on the claim, or a lawsuit will be filed. Comments from Mike Storie, an attorney for Pima County SWAT team suggest, that agreement is unlikely and this matter will end up in the courts.
The $20 million figure was “obscene,” he told Fox 11. “I would be absolutely shocked if anybody settles this case and did not fight it vigorously and if asked, I would say it would be a ridiculous result,” said Storie. “I think a dollar is excessive. Any type of settlement for any type of award would be unwarranted in this case.”
Jose Guerena was the 25th person to be killed this year in domestic law enforcement operations. This year’s toll of drug war killings is currently at 32.