From the July-August 2011 issue of News & Letters:
The continuing problem of racist, unaccountable police violence is highlighted by a recent pair of outrageous shootings in Arizona and Florida. Both illustrate the militarized, “search and destroy” mentality so prevalent among police officers, supported by the racist political climate in the U.S. today.
A Pima County Regional SWAT team killed Jose Guerena in his Tucson home May 5, at 9:30 AM. Guerena, 26, an Iraq war veteran, had finished working his graveyard shift at the Asarco Mission mine when his wife woke him to say she heard suspicious noises outside their house and saw a man at the window. He picked up his AR-15 rifle, safety on, and went to check, telling his wife to hide in the closet with their 4-year-old son.
He was shot 22 times (SWAT fired 71 shots) and left lying on his kitchen floor without medical attention while his distraught wife begged fire department dispatchers for help. The Sheriff’s Department dispatchers told medical help not to respond to Vanessa Guerena’s desperate call.
In the Pima County Attorney’s office hearing at which they were “exonerated,” SWAT team members told a half-assed story about fearing for their lives when they believed Guerena pointed his rifle in their direction (remember he was ready to defend his home and family from a break-in) and then of mistaking their own shooting for his.
Law enforcement was raiding a number of homes in the Guerenas’ southwest Tucson neighborhood in search of drugs. At another home, they did find a single bag of weed. Many of their shots hit other houses, but luckily no one else was killed in this insane exercise.
In Miami, Florida, at around 4:00 AM on May 30, four bystanders were shot by police in pursuit of an erratic driver, 22-year-old Haitian-American Raymond Herisse. The incident took place during Urban Beach Weekend, which draws large crowds of youth. Police fired wildly and recklessly into crowds of mostly Black and young people, shooting out Herisse’s tires and firing at him. This may have contributed to his crashing into a number of parked cars.
When Herisse’s car came to a stop, it was surrounded by Miami police officers who then fired numerous rounds into it, making sure Herisse was dead. A number of bystanders recorded this on cell phone cameras. Police confiscated cell phones, pointing guns at and cuffing some who had recorded the incident. One man was asked, “So you want to be a fuckin’ paparazzi?”
Two days later, police announced that they had found a gun in Herisse’s car. Ballistics tests would determine if it had been fired, they said, meaning they didn’t know for sure–though it was part of their initial story. Meanwhile, there was no shortage of racist commentary from white Floridians denouncing the “savages” and “thugs” making up the crowds police were firing on.