A distraught Mike Atencio, on his way to the hospital to watch his brother Ernest "Marty" Atencio die, told me today that he and his family believe his brother was "murdered" by Sheriff Joe Arpaio's thugs in the Fourth Avenue Jail.
"The sheriff's office murdered my brother," said Atencio, acting as spokesman for his family. "That's what I want to get out to the public right now: Sheriff Joe is murdering inmates."
Atencio said he was told by MCSO Detective Bryan Cluff that his brother was found in his cell without a pulse. This, after being Tasered by detention officers and placed there, Atencio alleged. His brother was already dead before being rushed to St. Joseph's Hospital in Phoenix, he stated.
"To me it's just a ploy, what the sheriff's office has done to this point in time," Atencio told me. "They found him without a pulse. They brought him to the hospital to resuscitate him. It doesn't look very promising...He's hanging by a very thin thread."
He described his brother as being "viciously" Tasered by jail staff, causing Marty Atencio's heart attack and subsequent death.
"They did it so brutally that they put him into cardiac arrest," an angered Mike Atencio related. "And then they threw him in a cell. So after they killed him, they threw him in a cell to sit."
This contradicts the MCSO's slithery semantics from Friday, where the agency claimed Marty Atencio not die in MCSO custody.
"What's keeping him alive is the hospital function and the life support," Mike Atencio told me. "Without the life support he would die instantly because he was dead before it even started."
Atencio said he was not sure if the family will have to make the ultimate decision to remove him from that life support today.
He wants the world to know that his brother was "the most patriotic guy on the planet," a military vet, proud of his country. He also described his brother as having "special needs," and said his brother's medication for his illness was "not balanced" at the time he was arrested.
The MCSO had interacted with Atencio's brother on minor violations in the past, and should have had record of his problems. That's assuming they cared to check.
Atencio pointed the finger at the current political climate in Arizona, also noting Arpaio's pattern of racial discrimination as detailed in the recent report from the U.S. Department of Justice.
In the eyes of "Arpaio and his staff," his brother was, "just another [Hispanic]," according to Atencio.
"But not to the city of Phoenix," said Atencio, his voice breaking. "To the city of Phoenix, he was a fine American Latino."
UPDATE 12/19/11 3:55 PM: The Phoenix Police Department's issued a statement on Atencio's arrest, which you can read, here.
UPDATE 12/28/11: For Atencio's obituary and funeral service schedule, please click, here.