"Sheriff Joe Is Killing Inmates": Veteran Allegedly Tasered Until Brain Dead in Arpaio's Maricopa County
Ernest “Marty” Atencio is a US veteran who fought in the Gulf War and was “the most patriotic guy on the planet” according to his brother in an interview with Phoenix New Times. Described as having “special needs,” Atencio was arrested after he kicked a door and confronted a stranger shortly before he became “distracted by a passing vehicle and began chasing it,” according to a police report. In a booking photo, he is shown smiling, his eyes wide, and leaning into the camera—he appears to be unstable, likely because his medication was “not balanced,” his brother told the paper.
It is probable, had the case made its way through the system, that Mr. Atencio would have been found incompetent to stand trial or been given access to medical professionals to be put on the correct medications. We’ll never know. Because Mr. Atencio was placed in one of Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s infamous Maricopa County jails. And several hours later, he was rushed to the hospital, brain dead from excessive force. He’d been tasered and thrown back in his cell for 15 minutes before officers noticed he didn’t have a pulse.
"The sheriff's office murdered my brother," Atencio told Phoenix New Times. "That's what I want to get out to the public right now: Sheriff Joe is murdering inmates."
The disturbing story of Marty Atencio couldn’t come at a more inopportune time for Joe Arpaio, self-desribed as “America’s Toughest Sheriff.” Known for attention-grabbing antics like issuing pink underwear to inmates and housing immigrant detainees in tent camps in 100-degree-plus temperatures, Arpaio has been found guilty of rampant civil rights violations and lawbreaking by the Department of Justice.
Specifically, states the investigation, Arpaio's Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office “engages in racial profiling of Latinos; unlawfully stops, detains, and arrests Latinos; and unlawfully retaliates against individuals who complain about or criticize MCSO' s policies or practices.” For this reason, the federal government has stripped Arpaio of access to 287 (g) and restricted participation in “Secure Communities,” programs that allow local law enforcement to engage in immigration enforcement and that were the basis of Arpaio’s “operations” to seek out and detain immigrants.
And while Arpaio spent years targeting Latino communities in “immigration sweeps,” another recent investigation revealed the sheriff failed to investigate hundreds of sex crimes, many committed against the young children of undocumented immigrants. That was the last straw for former Phoenix New Times investigative journalist John Dougherty who started a petition on Change.org calling for the resignation of Sheriff Joe Arpaio.
To Joe Arpaio, the Atencio family told the paper, Marty was “just another [Hispanic].” But to the more than 6,000 people who have signed Dougherty’s campaign in the days since investigations have been made public, Marty is the latest and most tragic victim that proves Sheriff Joe Arpaio must go.
Photo Credit: Gage Skidmore