The Death of Gonzalo Guizan

Tuesday, May 29th, 2012

I’ve posted on the Guizan case a number of times before. In May 2008, Guizan was visiting his friend Ronald Terebesi in Easton, Connnecticut—Guizan’s family says it was to discuss a new business. He was killed later that night during a SWAT-like police raid. (In this part of Connecticut, it’s called the SWERT.)

Terebesi doesn’t seem like the sort of guy you’d necessarily want living next to you. Neighbors reported frequent visits from prostitutes, drug use, and that Terebesi would watch porn in his living room. One jealous boyfriend apparently fired a shotgun into Terebesi’s house. But I don’t know why any of things would justify a SWERT raid.

And in fact, the raid came after a prostitute who had previously visited Terebesi reported he had been using—not dealing—cocaine the night of the raid. Guizan, who had no prior criminal record, was shot and killed by police shortly after they entered Terebesi’s home.

Four years later, the Connecticut Post looks at what we’ve learned since then.

On the morning of May 18, 2008, the Easton Police Department got a telephone call from “Chandra Parker.”

It turns out that wasn’t her real name, but that didn’t matter. Solomon now had a reason to take action against Terebesi.

He called in members of the Southwest Regional Emergency Response Team, a SWAT force made up of police officers from Easton and four surrounding towns. Nine heavily armed officers charged into the home based on a search warrant that a miniscule amount of drugs had been seen there by Parker.

When the operation was over, Guizan, who was visiting Terebesi, had been shot dead . . .

Two officers expressed misgivings about the operation prior to its launch. The team’s commander urged it be delayed; another officer suggested the SWAT-style raid wasn’t even necessary. But Solomon insisted the raid had to be conducted that day.

A member of the team with the most critical role in the May 18 raid had received most of his training for a far different role in such an operation. He arrived an hour late to the pre-raid briefing.

And the woman whose complaint led to the search warrant and the raid had a criminal record and gave a false name to officers preparing the warrant — all of which was never conveyed to the judge who authorized the search.

The lawsuit charges that the raid by the Southwest Regional Emergency Response Team should never have been ordered.

“The decision to call out SWERT to execute the warrant was unjustified, unreasonable, an arbitrary abuse of police power and not based on a legitimate law enforcement objective,” the suit states. “It was intended to frighten, intimidate, harass and/or punish Terebisi and Guizan and, on information and belief, to further Solomon’s interests.”

Solomon, who had been chief since 1995, recently retired from the police department. His lawyer did not return calls and emails for comment. In his deposition testimony he states that based on the information he has now he would not have done anything differently in ordering the SWAT team to raid Terebesi’s home. He claimed he wanted the raid done as soon as possible to ensure that evidence of criminal activity was not destroyed before they could seize it. He continued the raid was necessary to “obtain the evidence that the crime — obviously a crime was occurring, and to obtain that evidence.”

That alleged crime requiring such urgent, overpowering police action, once again, was a man using cocaine in his living room.

Police would learn later Parker’s real name was Pankov and she had a criminal record, including convictions for interfering with police, assault of a police officer, threatening and harrassment — all things they later acknowledged might have made a difference to the judge who reviewed and signed the search warrant. But that information was not provided to the judge . . .

Cirillo told [the SWERT officers] assembled that Terebesi was known to have guns in his house, had fought with officers before and that there was a good chance he was going to shoot at officers during the raid, according to court records.

Terebesi did have a handgun, which he owned legally. There was no history of him fighting with police officers. In fact, he had been served with an arrest warrant a month earlier after an EMT found glass pipes in his bed. (EMTs had been called after a report someone was having a seizure in Terebesi’s home.) He agreed to turn himself in, and was described by police as “‘congenial,’ and even ‘friendly'” while he was booked. So telling the SWERT team Terebesi has previously been violent with police was a lie.

They began to count down. Ten, nine, eight. …

At one there was the sound of breaking glass and the explosions of flashbangs at the other side of the house.

The back door was smashed open and the stack went in, Weir yelling, “Police, warrant.”

Another explosion as a flashbang went off.

Sweeney yelled, “I’m hit, I’m hit,” and then a volley of gunfire ensued.

It was over in about 15 seconds.

A lifeless Guizan lay on the floor with six gunshot wounds, one through his left hand that penetrated his chest, two shots to the abdomen, a gunshot in his left groin, one to the right knee and one to the right upper arm. Terebesi, who had been pinned by Sweeney, was handcuffed and dragged out of the house.

Team members searched the room and found two crack pipes and a tin containing a small amount of cocaine. No guns.

He had been “hit,” lightly, with the effects of one of his own flash grenades.

As Sweeney had entered Terebesi’s home the third flashbang had gone off. Debris from the explosion had hit him in the chest and foot and he mistakenly thought someone in the house was shooting at him. When Sweeney yelled that he had been hit, Weir, believing his comrade was under attack, fired one shot but didn’t hit anyone.

Sweeney said later that he had taken three or four steps into the room and then looked to his right where he saw Terebesi and Guizan in a corner of the room. Sweeney said he took two or three shuffle steps towards them.

At that point, he said, Terebesi and Guizan came toward him. Terebesi pushed and pulled on Sweeney’s shield while Guizan grabbed at Sweeney’s gun hand, pulling it downward. Sweeney said he began to lose his grip on his pistol and began firing until he felt Guizan let go of his gun. According to the video, this whole confrontation would have occurred in about a second.

Weir said later he saw no struggle between Sweeney and the two men.

During a deposition a frustrated Sweeney asked: “Why didn’t we just knock on the door?”

Of course, even if Guizan had fought with Sweeney, the most likely explanation is that he thought Terebesi’s home was being invaded. It’s much less likely that a guy with no criminal record or history of violence would knowingly take on a SWAT team . . . while unarmed.

Here’s the coda, now almost obligatory in these stories:

Sweeney received his department’s Officer of the Year award for his part in the raid.

For mistakenly believing he had been shot, then opening fire on an unarmed man, all because a prostitute had told police that the dead man’s friend was using cocaine in the privacy of his own home . . . for this, Officer Sweeney was declared “Officer of the Year.”

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51 Responses to “The Death of Gonzalo Guizan”

  1. #1 |  C. S. P. Schofield | 

    Seems to me that the locals have mixed up “Officer of the year” and “swine of the decade”.

  2. #2 |  Irish Mike | 

    While this story horrifies me am I crazy to find the tiniest of silver linings on the media side in that the Connecticut Post actually appears to be condeming the actions of the police department instead of just the usual statist pandering?

  3. #3 |  Lorenzo | 

    Apeneck Sweeney

  4. #4 |  Cynical in New York | 

    Simply disgusting

  5. #5 |  perlhaqr | 

    Fuck you, that’s why. People might be enjoying themselves in an unauthorized fashion! This sort of thing has to be stopped, you maniac.

  6. #6 |  Yizmo Gizmo | 

    “As Sweeney had entered Terebesi’s home the third flashbang had gone off. Debris from the explosion had hit him in the chest and foot and he mistakenly thought someone in the house was shooting at him. When Sweeney yelled that he had been hit, Weir, believing his comrade was under attack, fired one shot but didn’t hit anyone…”

    If the end results weren’t so severe, I might have recommended
    some sort of travelling Keystone Cops-styled comedy act…

  7. #7 |  Jess | 

    If there is anything good about the supposedly-rampant prank technique known as “swatting”, it is to further demonstrate for the really dimwitted just what SWAT is. SWAT is a horrible menace when used on “fraudulent” pretexts for the same reason it’s a horrible menace when used to “obtain evidence”. That is, SWAT is a horrible menace, period.

    The Bill of Rights institutes the whole “search warrant” process to protect some value, whether we call that value privacy or due process or something else. The way that police use SWAT for evidence security implies that the value of human life (for both police and their victims) is far less important than whatever the 4th Amendment is protecting. That is troubling.

  8. #8 |  Burgers Allday | 

    More on Sweeney:

    http://blog.ctnews.com/connecticutpostings/2012/03/07/monroe-animal-shelter-owner-files-lawsuit-against-police/

  9. #9 |  Burgers Allday | 

    also of interest:

    http://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&frm=1&source=web&cd=2&sqi=2&ved=0CFgQFjAB&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.monroect.org%2Fsystems%2Ffile_download.aspx%3Fpg%3D3579%26ver%3D1&ei=SezET6D-G8716AHU5fy1Cg&usg=AFQjCNES4vOGlqZ1QKArvDKI4SqkeTpc5Q&sig2=3u31psyssoTwwwQ_zDZsRA

    sheds some light on why he got his medal.

  10. #10 |  Jack Dempsey | 

    I feel safer.

  11. #11 |  Maggie McNeill | 

    The whole hooker-rat thing stinks on ice; I don’t know a single pro (self-respecting or otherwise) who would call the cops on a client doing coke. If I had turned in every man who was doing lines while I was present I would’ve needed a hotline to the DEA. It seems much more likely to me that this woman had some kind of hostility to Terebesi (perhaps he cheated her or refused to share his drugs with her, though that would be weird for a powder user) and decided to SWAT him.

  12. #12 |  Comrade Dread | 

    It’s raids like this that gives me a warm fuzzy feeling when I think that we’ll likely have armed drones flying over our cities sometime this decade.

    Raining death from above on the homes of suspected drug users will be so much safer for the police involved than involving them in a raid where they might be pelleted with fragments from their own grenades.

  13. #13 |  David Chesler | 

    I’ve been reading the Southern Connecticut papers lately.
    Compare the first raid on Terebesi, that found the pipe, with this passage from the same day’s New Haven Register, from the sad story of Florence and Susan Beran (a middle-aged woman caring for her demented, house-poor [positive net worth, no liquid assets] mother could not find a better way out than killing her mother and herself after they lost their utilities and then their home in a foreclosure auction) near by in Stamford:

    http://nhregister.com/articles/2012/05/28/news/doc4fc37aefa17a7983815758.txt?viewmode=fullstory

    “No,” one of the patrol officers said. “The house is locked up. I mean, we can’t check. There’s no sign there’s anything that would be amiss. No one knows if she’s definitely there. There’s not even supposed to be anybody living there.”

  14. #14 |  nigmalg | 

    Raining death from above on the homes of suspected drug users will be so much safer for the police involved than involving them in a raid where they might be pelleted with fragments from their own grenades.

    As we’re so often peppered with the phrase “officer safety” as a defense against the most inhumane of acts, I’d like to make a recommendation.

    If officer safety has not only become an important factor, but now a goal, why do they bother leaving their department compounds? This perpetual rhythm of creating their own distaster to further invoke safety “concerns” will cost us every ounce of freedom we may have left.

  15. #15 |  terrence | 

    ALL cops are SOCIOPATHIC PIGS – they would not be hired if they were not.

  16. #16 |  croaker | 

    Officer of the year ranks right up there with the California SWAT team that got medals for terrorizing an innocent family. Supposedly the medals were for not killing the whole family when the innocent homeowner opened fire on the armed felons in his home.

    Stories like this are why I lack any level of giveafuck when a cop dies “in the line of duty”. One less oppressive thug, one that probably had it coming.

    As far as armed drones are concerned, a scoped deer rifle will turn one of them into a very expensive hole in the ground.

  17. #17 |  EH | 

    Great URL, Burgers…

  18. #18 |  Whim | 

    A “Flash-Bang” grenade is just that: A grenade.

    It is an offensive grenade that is supposed to lack the shrapnel effect of a typical military defensive grenade.

    It is intended to leave the occupant/resident/homeowner stunned and confused.

    And, it worked to stun and confuse the occupants, who probably could not even hear the commands of the SWAT team barging into the house in the middle of the night.

    Think about it: Intended to STUN and CONFUSE…..

  19. #19 |  Joe Schmoe | 

    “Neighbors reported frequent visits from prostitutes, drug use, and that Terebesi would watch porn in his living room

    Sounds like a fun guy. Where would you have him watch his porn Radley?

  20. #20 |  Steve Verdon | 

    For mistakenly believing he had been shot, then opening fire on an unarmed man, all because a prostitute had told police that the dead man’s friend was using cocaine in the privacy of his own home . . . for this, Officer Sweeney was declared “Officer of the Year.”

    Disgusting…..

  21. #21 |  Chris Claypoole | 

    At least they didn’t shoot the dogs. Wait – what? No dogs? Well, there’s your problem. Something had to die to show how dangerous their jobs are, so absent dogs, a coke user has to go. So many of these SWAT guys (and police in general) seem to live in perpetual fear for their lives, one wonders how they get through a day without counseling and/or drugs (I mean, other than adrenaline).

  22. #22 |  Dante | 

    “He had been “hit,” lightly, with the effects of one of his own flash grenades.”

    This appears to be the new “stop resisting”, the excuse now used by police for their misconduct. If the police call out “I’m hit”, it is open season on anyone or anything that moves. Innocent children, their mothers, family pets – all fair game once a single officer feels a single bump or tug on a single thread of his uniform. Almost as if “shoot them all, let God sort them out” was the police motto, instead of …

    Protect & Serve (Themselves!)

  23. #23 |  Bobby Black | 

    It’s time for some of those good cops…you know…the only good cops…
    Just saying, that nobody’s life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness is safe with these type of men above the soil.
    And I don’t care what list that puts me on for saying it.

  24. #24 |  Bill Poser | 

    I wonder if the problem of questionable warrants might not be reduced by moving from ex parte to adversarial warrant hearings. Since there is a legitimate need to keep the warrant application from the target, the adversary of the police would be a professional Devil’s Advocate. He or she would have access to the same resources as the police, so that he would, for example, be able to look at a confidential informant’s record.

  25. #25 |  EH | 

    Bill@24: Conceivably, that’s the judge’s job.

  26. #26 |  croaker | 

    @25 Which a judge almost never does. Usually a judge will sign anything a cop put in front of him.

    Not only do these warrant requests need to be adversarial, we need to remove absolute immunity from judges for searh warrant authorization. I’m not even sure they deserve qualified immunity.

  27. #27 |  David | 

    I can only assume that such a position would become the judicial equivalent of Alan Colmes.

  28. #28 |  Personanongrata | 

    During a deposition a frustrated Sweeney asked: “Why didn’t we just knock on the door?”

    Every police station in the US should have Sweeney’s epiphfany embossed across the main entrance, stenciled on t-shirts/official stationary/coffee cups and it should become the mantra at every police academy and SWAT/SWERT (or whatever other asine acronym is used) training center.

    To allow theses egregeous types of SWAT/police abuses of power to continue will only lead to greater and more frequent loss of life.

    The entire SWERT team should be disbanded for operating with depraved indifference to human life.

  29. #29 |  Kool | 

    Where’s Peter Moskos to tell us this is “Good Policing?”

  30. #30 |  Weird Willy | 

    Maggie McNeill,

    I love your post. The same thing occurred to me as I was reading the story.

  31. #31 |  parse | 

    “Terebesi doesn’t seem like the sort of guy you’d necessarily want living next to you. Neighbors reported frequent visits from prostitutes, drug use, and that Terebesi would watch porn in his living room.”

    I’m with Joe Schmoe, Radley. I wish you hadn’t suggested that any of these things is something neighbors might reasonably object to.

  32. #32 |  Sean | 

    Off-topic , kind of , but interesting, the cop who shot Patricia Cook in Culpepper, VA has been indicted on a murder charge. This is the case where he claimed she tried to drag him after rolling up her car window on his arm.

    http://m.nbcwashington.com/nbcwashington/db_/contentdetail.htm?contentguid=i4IXAHmT&full=true#display

  33. #33 |  Burgers Allday | 

    Off-topic , kind of , but interesting, the cop who shot Patricia Cook in Culpepper, VA has been indicted on a murder charge.

    WOW. I did not see that coming. Good!

  34. #34 |  Burgers Allday | 

    Where’s Peter Moskos to tell us this is “Good Policing?”

    I told you guys, the Professor is not into intellectual growth and change. Believe me, I have tried with him. More than you might guess.

  35. #35 |  marco73 | 

    Way back in the day, Officer of the Year was some cop who pulled a child out of a frozen river or pulled a motorist out of a burning car.
    That somehow Officer of the Year has now become an award for clumsy oafs who kill unarmed people because the cops screwed the pooch, just points out Justice Scalia’s “new professionalism.”
    For publicity’s sake, they should at least have cops take a paid suspension and then some retraining. But handing out awards for this kind of conduct just points out to the public how much we are all screwed.

  36. #36 |  peck | 

    In1997 in Pima county AZ a drunken violent piece of crap broke into my RV at about 10pm. Instead of killing him, I simply beat the crap out of him. Bad mistake. The bloody intruder crawled off and reported that for no reason whatsoever I jumped out of my RV and attacked him. Meanwhile, I was in bed sucking on O2 and dropping nitro tabs. This shithead, at 38 years old, had a 20 year criminal record. I, at 57 yrs old had no record. Didn’t matter. I was arrested and charged with several counts of agg/ass, shackled and cuffed for 23 days in solitary. Twelve out of 13 deputies involved lied in their reports, lied to get a search warrant, lied to the grand jury, and lied on the stand. Luckily I had an intelligent jury. They were stunned to hear the lies. I was acquitted. The lead Sergeant was advanced to Lt., and the prosecutors patted themselves on the back for a job well done. Costumed thugs are now targets in my book. My survival motto is now “shoot first”. The LE establishment is corrupt beyond saving.

  37. #37 |  NEWS LINKS: Labor figures show ‘lazy’ Greeks work long hours « David McElroy | 

    […] one of the raiding officers, so he yelled that he was hit — causing all the other officers to shoot to death the unarmed man inside. The story will make you angry if you care anything about […]

  38. #38 |  The Death of Gonzalo Guizan a the hand of the cops « Evil of indifference | 

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  39. #39 |  nigmalg | 

    When I first started reading stories here, I would see comments after a fresh episode of police violence claiming the officer would be “cleared of any wrongdoing and given a medal”. I didn’t *actually* believe they give them medals.

    Should have taken that more literally.

  40. #40 |  Boyd Durkin | 

    nigmalg, “Officer of the Year” after murdering a peasant is center square in Police Bingo.

    People (and dogs) are getting killed by cops at record rates and the best that might happen is a slight procedure change that will reduce the murders a little bit for a little while. No chance of actually balancing the scales with the generations of pigs who’ve been butchering people for so long.

  41. #41 |  nigmalg | 

    Boyd,

    I think they do it to manufacturer some sort of acceptability or normality. Perhaps they think they can use the “but he got a medal” anytime anyone questions the officer’s activities. They assume the medal or award takes some bite out of the atrocity.

    With the mainstream media that we have, that might not be far from the truth.

  42. #42 |  Kane Bonkers | 

    I heard a bunch of old boys talkin bout how they thought it was time to revive something like the KKK to take care of these kind of episodes. They were saying how the offender would get dragged out of his house in the middle of the night and receive whatever dose of “police brutality” he gave out to the citizen, plus 20 lashes with a bull whip, plus…have the word “bully” branded on his forehead! Then leave him tied to the tree and melt away into the night so his “brother officers” could find him.
    I mean…just think about it.
    Gave me the chills!

  43. #43 |  Weird Willy | 

    peck,

    I had several similar experiences with Pima County Sheriff’s deputies in the early-mid 1990s. While I found Tucson PD to behave with at least a modicum of professionalism, the bastards over at PCSO were Pigs of the highest magnitude and lowest order. I once was held at gunpoint on the side of a road by a PCSO Pig and was forced to listen to his profane, abusive tirade because he claimed I did not show him sufficient respect when I drove by. I have absolutely no trouble believing any part of your story, and would enjoy being able to read more of it should you choose to post further details.

  44. #44 |  Belle Waring | 

    I am a grown-up married woman with two young girls, and I can’t say I’d object hugely to my neighbor having prostitutes coming in and out of the house, doing drugs, or watching porn in the living room, as long as he didn’t bother anyone. I might ask the man to draw the curtains, depending on the situation, but really, none of these is a hugely un-neighborly offense. I wouldn’t like to move to a neighborhood with a lot of street-level prostitution or drug-dealing, but that wouldn’t be about my neighbor, but the whole neighborhood.

  45. #45 |  peck | 

    Well, Weird Willy, as long as the Liberal morons in Pima County continue to re-elect scat like sheriff Clarence Dumbdick and and the political whore Barbara Lawall as prosecutor, you have no hope. Keep in mind that they are both political positions and are both held by DEMOCRATS. Not “old time” dems, but the “new” type as defined by hate,stupidity, and evil. Pima County is ruled by hard-core Commie/Marxist filth. It would be best to pop those two, but popping a dozen or so deputies would probably stop their abuses for awhile. Might as well do the county commission as well.

  46. #46 |  kyl | 

    When a LEO is involved in a questionable shooting, and those in charge of that officer realize a whitewashing of the facts is necessary (to ensure they can continue to get away with dubious shootings in the future), it is usually proper police procedure to promote the shooter to make the whole sordid event justified in the eyes of the public.

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    […] background, here’s a post I wrote on Guizan last year. Digg it |  reddit |  del.icio.us |  […]

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