You knew this was coming.
In 1992, Joe Arpaio won the Maricopa County Sheriff's race by running on a platform of fiscal responsibility. He bellyached that the incumbent, Tom Agnos, was costing taxpayers money because he had piled up $4 million in lawsuits for wrongful arrests. During his first term in office, Arpaio's goons killed Scott Norberg and ended up paying more than $8 million to his survivors. Norberg would not be the last.
In hindsight, Tom Agnos looks like a cheap date. In fact, since he's been in office Arpaio has rung up more than $60 million in payouts to the families of people who were tortured or even killed while in the Sheriff's custody. Then there's the tens of millions he pilfered to buy tanks and other nifty toys. And all the while he's been doing this, Arpaio has presided over the only county sheriff's office in the state that has seen an increase in violent crime. Expensive and ineffective. That the goobers still elect him, as he fleeces their wallets and makes them less safe, shows how strong their prejudice is.
So last December, when 44-year-old Gulf War veteran Marty Atencio was beaten and Tased by County deputies until he was unconscious, and then died days later, you knew another lawsuit was in the works. I hate the fact that, as a Maricopa County taxpayer, Arpaio costs me a lot of money and provides shitty service, but I despise his racism and police state tactics even more, and I hope the Atencio family gets every dime they're asking for (read a PDF of the attorney's filing here).
The claims, submitted by Phoenix attorney Mike Manning on behalf of the Atencio family, allege that Atencio, though obviously suffering from mental illness, was "mocked, beaten, electrocuted, stripped naked and killed," by Phoenix Police officers and Maricopa County detention officers in December of last year. New TimesAtencio was arrested on Dec. 11, 2011, and brought to the County jail because he had yelled at his girlfriend, Cathy Boyd. In her statement, Boyd says she didn't call the authorities because Marty was violent, drunk, or on drugs; Marty never touched her and tests later showed he had no alcohol or drugs in his system. No, Marty Atencio, a veteran from a proud family of veterans, suffered from schizoaffective disorder and his meds weren't working. Boyd knew about his condition and she simply wanted someone to get him help:
"I knew there was something wrong with him and I just wanted him to go to the psych ward, at 24th and Van Buren, to get some help, not necessarily go to jail because he had not done anything...." New TimesArpaio's deputies "helped" him all right. If you have the stomach for it, watch how they dispense their help in what New Times reporter Stephen Lemons describes as an "obscene cross between a Three Stooges short and a snuff film":
What brought this on? Although he was talking jibberish, Marty did not threaten anyone, and in their interviews the guards say he was not combative or aggressive. The detention officers taunted the confused Atencio excessively, and evidently at one point he didn't take his shoes off fast enough for the thugs. What followed is described by attorney Manning as a "jailers' riot":
So they leapt upon him, in what one witness described as a "dog pile." MCSO detention officer Anthony Hatton struck Atencio "with a closed fist, multiple times," while Atencio was down, smothered in cops. Atencio also was repeatedly Tased by MCSO Sergeant Jason Weiers. New TimesA woman who works in the medical office witnessed the gruesome melee, saying at one point, "if they Tase him anymore, they are going to kill him." The deputies continued with the Tasing, and after that finally stopped "the punching began."
After being brutalized, Tased repeatedly, and left naked in a so-called "safe cell," Atencio stopped breathing. CPR was administered, and Atencio was transported, brain dead, to St. Joseph's Hospital. His family ultimately removed him from life support days later. New TimesIn his claim attorney Manning puts the case in context, starting out with the ongoing Department of Justice lawsuit against Arpaio for racial profiling. It's all part of a sick pattern we've lived through for 20 years. What brought the DOJ lawsuit on, in addition to Arpaio's crimes, was his refusal to cooperate with the Feds -- stonewalling and not turning over requested documents. It's his way or no way! Rather than respond to and work with the DOJ, Arpaio released an 18-page glossy publication describing the wonderful reforms he's enacting. Attorney Manning calls it an obscene farce:
One day before the Civil Rights Division of the United States Department of Justice filed a lawsuit against Sheriff Joe Arpaio and his Maricopa County Sheriff's Office ("MCSO"), our Sheriff issued an 18 page glossy PR piece entitled "Integrity, Accountability, Community," He included a press release proclaiming, "We at the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office do not foster a 'culture of cruelty.'" PDF"Integrity, Accountability, Community" -- are you shitting me!! A bigoted birther jackass who bends the law to satisfy his own warped sense of justice has no integrity; a flaccid fool whose illegal arrests, jailhouse murders, misuse of funds, and criminal malfeasance costs taxpayers tens of millions of dollars while hundreds of sex crimes against children are not even investigated, let alone prosecuted, has no accountability; and a police state goon whose deputies sweep through neighborhoods, rounding up "suspicious" people (i.e., brown), even ignoring the officials who have jurisdiction over the areas Arpaio's men goose-step through, has no sense of community -- and no right to speak on their behalf.
And if the Sheriff truly believes his office does not represent a "culture of cruelty," heaven help us if the sick bastard and his deputies ever do decide to be cruel.
UPDATE: I should have mentioned that the octogenarian faces two challengers this November: a Republican (Mike Stauffer) and a Democrat who's a former police officer, Paul Penzone. Throw some love or coin Paul's way if you can.