Latino Inmate Ernest Atencio Dies After Fight With Deputies at Sheriff Joe Arpaio Jail

Dec 21, 2011 7:50pm
us ariz inmate kd 111220 wblog Latino Inmate Ernest Atencio Dies After Fight With Deputies at Sheriff Joe Arpaio Jail

(Maricopa County Sheriff's Office/AP Photo)

The embattled Maricopa County, Ariz., Sheriff’s Office, which is accused of committing wide-ranging civil rights violations against Latinos in a U.S. Justice Department report, is now at the center of a new controversy.

An attorney for Ernest Atencio claims as the Justice Department’s report was being released Friday, deputies fought with his client, a scuffle that led to Atencio’s death.

After the Phoenix jailhouse fight, Michael Manning told The Associated Press,  Atencio had no brain activity and had marks from a stun gun used on his body.

“At this stage, we all have to give the MCSO the benefit of the doubt, but based on prior experience with these people, I have plenty of doubt,” Manning said, adding that the Sheriff’s Department needs to release surveillance video that was captured during the scuffle.

When contacted by ABC News, a Sheriff’s Department spokesman said while the department can offer no comment on the case right now, a comprehensive report will be released along with surveillance recordings by Friday evening.

Before Atencio was taken off life support, Sheriff’s Deputy Director Jack MacIntyre released a statement saying that Atencio was combative when police brought him to the jail for booking and that he was placed in a “safe cell” to calm down after fighting with deputies.

MacIntyre said Atencio was watched by medical personnel while in the jail cell but 15 minutes later he was found unresponsive.

Police arrested Atencio for allegedly kicking at the door of an apartment complex last week and aggressively confronting a woman.  Friends said Atencio may have had bipolar disorder.

Manning has told reporters that Atencio was in the Army from 1988 to 1992.  He had three sons who range in age from 15 to 21.

For now, Sheriff’s Department investigators are working the case and say soon the public will hear their side of the story.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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