Death Squad Damage Control

Recently by William Norman Grigg: The Authentic Cruelty of a Synthetic Man

…no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

The Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution (emphasis added)

The Constitution of the United States is the supreme law of the land…. No person shall be disturbed in his private affairs, or his home invaded, without authority of law. 

Sections 3 and 8 of the "Declaration of Rights" from the Arizona State Constitution's "Declaration of Rights"

People seeking to defend the manifestly indefensible often sabotage themselves by disclosing critical details that undermine their argument. Mike Storie, the police union lawyer representing the SWAT operators who murdered Jose Guerena in his home on May 5, did this during his May 19 press conference in an attempt to assign all of the blame for Jose's death on the victim and his terrorized wife.

As reported by the Arizona Star, Storie insisted that if the Guerena family had permitted the armed intruders into their home, those inside "probably … wouldn't have been arrested.” This is because the “warrant was not directed at any particular person, and Guerena's home was not mentioned, but it was targeting whoever might be inside the residence….”

That is to say that this was not a legitimate search warrant, under the requirements imposed by the Fourth Amendment (and expressly incorporated in Arizona law through the state constitution). The instrument used as supposed justification for the armed assault was akin to the “writs of assistance” used by British soldiers during the years leading up to the American colonial rebellion.

As Judge Andrew Napolitano summarizes, writs of assistance were “self-written search warrants” that “enabled [British] soldiers and government agents to enter any private building or dwelling and  search for whatever they had authorized themselves to search for.” In this way, occupation forces could invade any home or business they chose, confiscate any item they suspected might be contraband, and haul away in irons anybody who attracted their malevolent attention. 

The only material difference I can identify between that tyrannical practice and SWAT raids of the kind that resulted in the murder of Jose Guerena is the fact that British Redcoats were considerably more restrained in their behavior. 

Writs of assistance were conspicuous among the grievances that led the colonial Patriots to rebel against the British government, and they were the direct inspiration for the Fourth Amendment, a provision that as of May 16 is de jure dead letter in the American Imperium.

On that date, two rulings were announced – one by the Indiana State Supreme Court, the other by the U.S. Supreme Court – that formally vitiated constitutional impediments to warrantless intrusions by police. 

Those rulings simply formalized the state of affairs that has long existed in the United States; after all, owing the fraudulent, murderous enterprise called the “war on drugs,” the Fourth Amendment has had no tangible relationship to public policy for decades.  Nonetheless, that Amendment remains on the books as part of the “supreme law” – which means that the raid on the Guerena home was, in a literal, legally binding sense, a home invasion robbery. 

Michael Storie is a living illustration of the fact that there is no “mob lawyer” more drenched in disrepute than a barrister who prostitutes himself in the service of a police union. 

Storie is lead criminal attorney for the Arizona Conference of Police and Sheriffs (AZCOPS). Through no fault of his own, Storie somewhat resembles Nathan Thurm, a fictional corporate attorney played by Canadian comic genius Martin Short.

In his performance at the May 19 news conference, Storie did a pretty creditable impression of Thurm, capturing the same odd combination of oleaginous dishonesty and prickly passive aggression that Short brought to his character, who was paid extravagantly well to protect the powerful and corrupt.

While he has been employed by AZCOPS, no member of that union “has ever been convicted of crimes relating to on-duty conduct,” boast the organization. This isn’t strictly correct: Storie represented former DARE officer Ramon Fernando Borbon, who was convicted of kidnapping and sexually assaulting a 19-year-old woman and a  16-year-old girl while he was on-duty.

In the Borbon case, Storie employed a two-pronged defense strategy: He tried to depict the adult victim as a consenting party, and the child as a gold-digging opportunist. In other words: They were asking for it, and now they’re just interested in money. He’s using a variation on that approach in defending the SWAT team members who murdered Jose Guerena: It was all the fault of the victim, and his family is now simply “trying to make money” through a lawsuit. 

The SWAT operators “had no choice but to shoot” after engineering a completely illegal raid, Thurm – er, Storie insisted. After all, Guerena was armed with an AR-15, and several officers “did report that they saw a muzzle flash from the shooter” – which means that their lives were in danger. 

Well, actually, they didn’t see a muzzle flash, since – as the Sheriff’s Office has admitted – Guerena never removed the safety from his rifle. Ah, but he could have, you see, and since the omniscient heroes on the SWAT team “know that [the] walls [of the Guerena home] are stucco … if this man starts shooting his rounds, every neighbor in the vicinity is in danger, including possible innocent residents that are in the residence itself.” 

So we’re told that waiting even a few seconds before opening fire was too risky; the only safe choice was for the SWAT team to unleash a 71-round barrage, since, as everyone knows, high-velocity rounds fired by sanctified personages in police uniforms possess a magical property that prevents them from endangering innocent people. 

That magical property, incidentally, is “qualified immunity” – and it protects the only “innocent” people that police unions care about: Police officers who injure or kill Mundanes.

Within seconds of violating the Guerena home, the invaders had perforated Jose's body with at least 60 gunshots. While Jose bled to death, his killers refused to allow paramedics to treat him.  During that period the SWAT team actually inserted a remote-controlled robot – another pricey toy provided by the Pentagon’s LESO program – to clear the house. While Jose was dying on the floor, the SWAT team found “everything they [thought] they're going to find in there,” Storie insisted.

What, exactly, were they looking for, and what did they find? After scraping away the layers of dissimulation applied by Storie, we arrive at this answer: They were looking for nothing in particular, and that’s exactly what they found.

They found no narcotics, no stash of suspected narcotics proceeds, no documentary or physical evidence of a crime of any kind. Neither Jose nor Vanessa has a criminal record. 

Yet Storie, who appears congenitally incapable of decent shame, has left the air clotted with insinuation: He reports that handguns, rifles, body armor, and "part of a police uniform" were found in the Guerena household, along with a picture of Jesus Malverde, described as a “patron saint” of narcotics traffickers. In other words, in terms of actual criminal evidence, they found nothing.

Guerena, recall, is a former Marine who served two combat tours in Iraq, so the presence of body armor – as well as a small gun collection – would hardly be inexplicable. It’s quite likely that his gun collection was smaller than those of many other Arizona residents who never served in the military. 

Furthermore, what, exactly, constitutes "part" of a police uniform? Might it be military-issue clothing in Guerena's possession – the kind of combat couture affected by jock-riding poseurs of the kind who gravitate toward SWAT teams? Again, Storie hasn't supplied the details, apparently in the hope that public perceptions will be governed by headlines, rather than details. 

Like everything else Storie said at the press conference, he extracted the detail about Jesus Malverde from the same bodily orifice he employs to dispose of used food. Malverde is not a Narcotrafficante, nor is he their proprietary saint. He is a semi-mythical Robin Hood figure venerated by ethnic Mexicans throughout the Southwest

By bringing up this inconsequential detail, Storie was trafficking in something that smells an awful lot like race-baiting. That comment could be a dog whistle directed at the segment of Arizona’s population that considers Joe Arpaio a champion of law and order, rather than a viscous, opportunistic thug: Rather than seeing Jose Guerena as an honorably discharged Marine and (of infinitely greater importance) loving young husband and father, at least some Arizonans now have an excuse to suspect that he’s an agent of the Reconquista plot.

Ironically, three of Arpaio's deputies were arrested on May 24 as part of a multi-state investigation of a "drug and human smuggling ring." The SWAT team involved in that arrest, which involved suspects known to be armed and violent, confined itself to a low-key supporting role, unlike the full-scale military assault on the Guerena home.

The original story put out by the Pima County Sheriff’s Office was that the raid in which Guerena was murdered was part of a large operation investigating a marijuana trafficking conspiracy. As outrage coalesced over Guerena's death, the official line was revised: Now we are told that Jose and his family were somehow "connected" to an alleged home invasion robbery ring, as were three other homes targeted in the same May 5 SWAT rampage. 

Apart from the fact that Jose himself was murdered in a home invasion conducted under the color of supposed State authority, there is another connection to a previous crime of that kind: Two of their relatives were murdered a year ago in a home invasion of the non-government-approved variety. 

That fact might well have colored Vanessa's perceptions of what was happening with a government-licensed home invasion crew materialized outside her home, began to vandalize the house, and threatened her life and that of her baby. It's also quite possible that the murder of a relative, coupled with combat experience in Iraq, played a large role in Jose's perceptions and actions on that horrible morning. 

The search warrant has been sealed, and the Pima County Sheriff's Department refuses to release details. Other than upbraiding local reporters who have abandoned stenography in favor of legitimate adversarial journalism, Clarence Dupnik, the Epsilon-grade personage in charge of Pima County's Sheriff's Office,has petulantly complained that the press has been "irresponsible" in "questioning the legality" of a military operation that resulted in the entirely avoidable violent death of a young father who was defending his wife and child against a feral pack of armed strangers. 

Like practically everybody else in the same racket, Sheriff Dupnik considers himself to be at war with the population his department ostensibly protects and serves. That’s the only rational explanation for the fact that he is treating the details of this incident as if they were classified secrets in a combat zone, rather than facts he is obliged to provide to the public that employs him. 

While grousing that “it is unacceptable and irresponsible to couch … questions with implications of secrecy and cover-up,” Dupnik’s office maintains that there is a “very real threat to innocent lives if … details [about the killing] are released prematurely.” Those “innocent” lives, we are entitled to suspect, are undercover police operatives – informants and, what’s much the same thing, provocateurs – who helped precipitate the crime on May 5. 

Storie peddled a similar line in his May 19 press conference, insisting that although Guerena was not individually targeted by a search or arrest warrant, detectives had concluded that someone at his residence had been keeping police investigators under “counter-surveillance.”

“Now, what I mean by this is, at some point detectives, as is usually the case, were driving by this house to get some intelligence,” Storie said. “At one point, when detectives were driving past this house once, the resident of this house, suspected to be Guereno [sic], jumped in his car and followed this detective. They then got a report from MVD” – that’s the Motor Vehicles Division, not the Soviet Ministry for State Security, despite the institutional kinship of those entities – “that there was a hit on this license plate driven by this detective by someone. So, Guereno [sic!] or someone very similar to him, who followed this detective, searched the identity of this driver, who was the owner of his vehicle. This is known as counter-surveillance measures done by people who are in this type of business. OK?”

It is a credit to his composure, if not his character, that Storie could ladle out this is a greasy porridge of self-serving supposition and speculation with a straight face. How could “someone” – just anyone, really – get instant access to the information at the Motor Vehicles Division? Who was that “someone,” incidentally? Who were the “detectives” who had been staking out Guerena’s home, and stalking his family? For that matter, was it a detective, or more than one – seeing that Storie can’t seem to get that detail nailed down? What evidence, apart from inchoate suspicions, justified the initial surveillance of that home? For that matter, was the subject of surveillance Jose Guerena, or someone whose surname is “Guereno”? 

During the same press conference Storie admitted that the SWAT team “had no specific information about what particular kids were in this house, or if there were any” before laying siege to a home containing a young mother and her four-year-old son – and a husband trying to get some sleep after pulling a long graveyard shift at a local mine. In other words, they knew nothing of any value about the home they attacked – yet Storie, Dupnik, and the murderers themselves all insist that the violent death of Jose Guerena was an entirely appropriate outcome, and that only irresponsible people would suspect otherwise.