Ernest “Marty” Atencio survived a military mission in Iraq, but was not as lucky after Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office deputies arrested him. The war veteran was taken from jail in a coma. His family decided to take him off life support, since he sustained irreversible injuries.
Atencio, who apparently suffered from bipolar disorder, was arrested for assault. As he was getting booked, he fought with deputies, who subdued him and locked him in a “safe cell” to calm down. Atencio was later found unconscious and transported to the hospital.
This recent incident is not isolated in the department Sheriff Arpaio leads. The attorney who represents the family already won five similar cases involving excessive force against the Maricopa Sheriff.
Deputies are supposedly trained to handle different situations. An arrest, including using Tasers sensibly, should not lead to death.
It is not a coincidence that the victim was a Latino. A recent Justice Department report highlighted the pattern of discrimination and hostility toward Latinos in general.
As a case in point, this week Miriam Mendiola-Martínez, a Mexican woman, filed a civil rights violation lawsuit against the Sheriff’s Office because in 2009-while she was an inmate-she was shackled and mistreated while she was in labor.
In its report, the Justice Department recommended numerous procedure changes in the Sheriff’s Office. We think the first fundamental change must be Arpaio’s dismissal.
Maricopa Sheriff’s Office has many serious issues. The worst one is leadership from the top, which promotes a culture of violence, abuse, discrimination and impunity in this police agency.
Atencio and Mendiola-Martínez are the most recent known victims of an out-of-control sheriff. How many more will have to suffer abuse and mistreatment before Arpaio finally leaves?
The death of Atencio, a prisoner, makes the sheriff’s ouster more urgent.