Did Sheriff Joe Arpaio's Officers Kill a Latino Vet? Autopsy Suggests Violent Arrest Led to Death
Talking Points Memo is reporting that an autopsy reveals officers working for the infamous Sheriff Joe Arpaio may be responsible for the death of a 44-year-old Latino military veteran, Ernest "Marty" Atencio. According to TPM, attorney Michael Manning plans to request an outside investigation:
Manning said the results of an autopsy released this week, six months after the death, proved what surveillance footage from the jail had already led him to believe: that Atencio would still be alive if sheriff’s detention officers and Phoenix cops hadn’t ganged up on him, pinned him down and given him electric shocks with a stun gun.
“When you look at the report, coupled with the video of Marty’s torture and death, plus interviews with witnesses, it confirms that this was a fairly gratuitous manslaughter of Marty Atencio,” Manning said. “They took it to the lethal level and really killed him in an absolute jailer riot.”
A military veteran with a history of schizophrenia, Atencio was arrested by Phoenix police on suspicion of assault and brought to one of Arpaio’s jails in the early morning of Dec. 16, 2011. The arrest took place just hours after the Justice Department released a scathing report accusing the sheriff and his office of regularly abusing the civil rights of Latinos.
Surveillance video released just days after the death showed that at some point during the booking process Atencio folded his arms and backed up against a wall. That’s when officers grabbed him and began to wrestle him to the ground. During the struggle, the video showed, one of the sheriff’s detention officers used a stun gun to shock Atencio into submission. Soon he was dragged into a holding cell, where he was stripped naked and left laying motionless on the floor for several minutes until medical help was called. He was quickly declared brain dead and several days later was taken off life support.
TPM says the autopsy they have obtained cites “complications of cardiac arrest in the setting of acute psychosis, law enforcement subdual, and multiple medical problems,” as the cause of death, though whether it was an accident or homicide was "undetermined." Atencio was reportedly in poor physical and mental health.
Read the full report here.