DAVID EMANUEL HICKMAN
The last US military member killed in the Iraq War
A cutup who liked to joke around with friends. A physical fitness fanatic who half-kiddingly called himself "Zeus" because he had a body that would make the gods jealous. A ferocious outside linebacker at Northeast Guilford High School who was the linchpin of a defense so complicated they had to scrap it after he graduated because no other teenager could figure it out.
He was more, too, than the man who bears the symbolic freight of being the last member of the U.S. military to die in a war launched in the political shadow of 9/11, which brought thousands of his fellow citizens out into the streets to oppose and support it. Eventually, the war largely faded from the public's thoughts.
"There's a lot of people, in my family included, they don't know what's going on in this world," said Wes Needham, who coached linebackers at Northeast when David was a student. "They're oblivious to it. I just sit and think about it, the courage that it takes to do what they do, especially when they're all David's age."
And they were mostly young. According to an Associated Press analysis of casualty data, the average age of Americans who died in Iraq was 26. Nearly 1,300 were 22 or younger, but middle-aged people fought and died as well: some 511 were older than 35.
"I've trained a lot of kids. They go to college and you kind of lose track of them and forget them," said Mike King of Greensboro Black Belt Academy, where Hickman trained in taekwondo for about eight years. "He was never like that. That smile and that laugh immediately come to mind."
GOD REST YOU
DAVID EMANUEL HICKMAN
GOD GRANT PEACE TO YOUR FAMILY
ON A MORE OUTRAGED NOTE
SWAT Team Shooting of Marine Vet Causes Outrage
TUCSON, Ariz. -- Jose Guerena Ortiz was sleeping after an exhausting 12-hour night shift at a copper mine. His wife, Vanessa, had begun breakfast. Their 4-year-old son, Joel, asked to watch cartoons.
An ordinary morning was unfolding in the middle-class Tucson neighborhood -- until an armored vehicle pulled into the family's driveway and men wearing heavy body armor and helmets climbed out, weapons ready.
They were a sheriff's department SWAT team who had come to execute a search warrant. But Vanessa Guerena insisted she had no idea, when she heard a "boom" and saw a dark-suited man pass by a window, that it was police outside her home. She shook her husband awake and told him someone was firing a gun outside.
A U.S. Marine veteran of the Iraq war, he was only trying to defend his family, she said, when he grabbed his own gun -- an AR-15 assault rifle.
What happened next was captured on video after a member of the SWAT team activated a helmet-mounted camera.
The officers -- four of whom carried .40-caliber handguns while another had an AR-15 -- moved to the door, briefly sounding a siren, then shouting "Police!" in English and Spanish. With a thrust of a battering ram, they broke the door open. Eight seconds passed before they opened fire into the house.
And 10 seconds later, Guerena lay dying in a hallway 20 feet from the front door. The SWAT team fired 71 rounds, riddling his body 22 times, while his wife and child cowered in a closet.
HOW'S THAT FOR MARKSMANSHIP?
71 ROUNDS AT A MAN FROM 20 FEET AWAY AND ONLY 22 HITS ON TARGET!
"Hurry up, he's bleeding," Vanessa Guerena pleaded with a 911 operator. "I don't know why they shoot him. They open the door and shoot him. Please get me an ambulance."
When she emerged from the home minutes later, officers hustled her to a police van, even as she cried that her husband was unresponsive and bleeding, and that her young son was still inside. She begged them to get Joel out of the house before he saw his father in a puddle of blood on the floor.
But soon afterward, the boy appeared in the front doorway in Spider-Man pajamas, crying.
The Pima County Sheriff's Department said its SWAT team was at the home because Guerena was suspected of being involved in a drug-trafficking organization and that the shooting happened because he arrived at the door brandishing a gun. The county prosecutor's office says the shooting was
IS IT JUSTIFIED TO KICK IN THE DOOR
AND START SHOOTING WILLY NILLY INTO AN OCCUPIED HOME?
But six months after the May 5 police gunfire shattered a peaceful morning and a family's life, investigators have made no arrests in the case that led to the raid. Outraged friends, co-workers and fellow Marines have called the shooting an injustice and demanded further investigation. A family lawyer has filed a multimillion-dollar lawsuit against the sheriff's office. And amid the outcry in online forums and social media outlets, the sheriff's 54-second video, which found its way to YouTube, has drawn more than 275,000 views.
The many questions swirling around the incident all boil down to one, repeated by Vanessa Guerena, as quoted in the 1,000-page police report on the case:
"Why, why, why was he killed?"