Note: For Updates, including the name and mugshot of the victim, see below.
Following on the heels of a report by the U.S. Department of Justice condemning the MCSO for engaging in "discriminatory policing" and blasting its treatment of Latinos in and out of its jails, an incident involving a prisoner at Arpaio's Fourth Avenue Jail may end up offering more proof of the report's findings.
Rumors of the details of the incident have been bouncing around Facebook since yesterday, with claims by Scottsdale Police Lieutenant Mike Stauffer, Arpaio's only announced foe in the 2012 election, that "a Latino inmate at 4th Avenue Jail is brain dead due to excessive force by detention officers."
Stauffer later updated with another post, saying that his source was telling him that homicide detectives were reviewing video and that MCSO was attempting to contact the individual's family to see if they wanted to remove the person from life support.
MCSO responded yesterday with a vague account of what transpired, which I've repeated in full below. MCSO spokesman Jeff Sprong stated emphatically that, "I want to make it clear that we did NOT have an inmate die last night."
Sprong issued a statement from Arpaio's top flack Jack MacIntyre, identifying the prisoner as a U.S. citizen brought in by the Phoenix Police Department on charges of assault. MacIntyre described the man as "abusive," and stated that the man was placed in a "safe cell" and was under "observation" by medical personnel.
"Approximately 15 minutes later medical personnel rechecked the arrestee and initiated CPR and other rescuscitive [sic] efforts," MacIntyre stated. "The arrestee was transported to a local hospital for additional treatment. The case is currently under investigation."
Phoenix Police Department spokesman Steve Martos said the man had been arrested for disorderly conduct (as apposed to "assault," as stated by the MCSO). The man was processed at Phoenix PD's central intake, then transported to 4th Avenue.
"Once he got down to the jail, there was some kind of scuffle of some sort," Martos told me. "It's been described to me as a scuffle, not as a fight or anything like that. MCSO pretty much took it over from there, and said, `We've got it, we're going to put him in a cell by himself.'"
Martos described the Phoenix PD's involvement in the scuffle as "minimal." He said he did have the man's name, but was not yet ready to release it, pending the MCSO's investigation.
He did say that the name "Encinas" was not the name he was given.
One law enforcement source I have stated that the man "was not likely to survive" his injuries. However, I would caution that's just one source, and that the source's info is second hand.
More as I get it.
UPDATE 1:31 PM: Sprong got back to me after my blog post, with the following statement,
"I have a copy of the booking sheet that Phoenix Police filled out for this inmate. Under charges it specifically states that he is being charged with assault (not disorderly conduct). I don't know where the confusion is on this but I can verify that the booking sheet does say one count of assault."
I re-checked with Martos, who told me that his info shows a disorderly conduct charge, but said he didn't know if another charge was added.
UPDATE 2:05: This statement just in from MCSO spokesman Christopher Hegstrom,
"The Maricopa County Sheriff's Office is releasing the name and photo of Ernest M. Atencio D.O.B. 2/22/67 who was arrested by Phoenix Police Thursday night. He is at St. Joseph's Hospital in Phoenix. He is listed in Critical Condition at this time."
UPDATE 12/18/11 9:44 AM: KPHO/Channel 5 scored more info about Atencio. He's a vet. Watch here:
Here's the MCSO's original statement to the media, made Friday:
We have received numerous emails regarding an incident that occurred at the 4th Avenue Jail last night. I am being told that someone put on Facebook that an inmate named Encinas was tased and transported to the hospital and died. I want to make it clear that we did NOT have an inmate die last night. Below is a statement from Deputy Director Jack MacIntyre regarding an incident that occurred at approximately 3:00 this morning:
There was an incident yesterday with a Phoenix Police arrestee who was never finalized and booked into a Maricopa County Sheriff's Office facility. Phoenix Police brought in an individual who was a United States citizen on charges of assault. He continued to be abusive with arresting officers during the booking process. Phoenix Police were forced to continue to use defensive efforts and Maricopa County Sheriff's Office staff assisted in restraining the individual and attempted to complete the booking process. Medical personnel advised Phoenix Police and Maricopa County Sheriff's Office staff to place the arrestee in a safe cell to continue the search process and attempt to get the individual to cease his combative efforts. While inside the safe cell, he was under medical visual observation by medical personnel. Approximately 15 minutes later medical personnel rechecked the arrestee and initiated CPR and other rescuscitive efforts. The arrestee was transported to a local hospital for additional treatment. The case is currently under investigation.
Media Relations Unit
Maricopa County Sheriff's Office
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UPDATE 12/28/11: For Atencio's obituary and funeral service schedule, please click, here.