By John Dickerson
The sheriff gave New Times an additional video today of inmate Juan Mendoza Farias' short-but-fatal stint in jail, but the new video – like the previous one – stops before showing what a gang of jail guards did to Farias prior to his death.
On Wednesday the sheriff gave New Times the first video, which stopped at 11:07 p.m. Farias was smothered by about a dozen guards and stopped breathing between 11:08 and 11:20 p.m., according to written reports from guards.
Sheriff’s attorney Michelle Iafrate released the second video today -- in response to our complaint that the first one ended before the altercation. The new video picks up at 11:07 p.m., where the original video left off. Yet the new video doesn't show what happened to Farias either, because of the camera angle.
The new video shows about a dozen guards carrying Farias under the camera. At 11:07, they move so that they’re half off screen. They appear to be aggressively engaging Farias before carrying him into a cell. Once they enter the cell, they’re entirely off screen.
Forty minutes later, the Phoenix Fire Department rolls Farias’ limp body out of the cell on a stretcher.
What happened inside that cell -- particularly during the first 15 minutes -- is crucial.
Farias, naked and disoriented, was pressed face-down by the guards, their reports state. He stopped breathing, and when a guard removed the “spit mask” from his face, blood came out of his mouth, they wrote. The video from this particular angle does not show any of that. Instead, it shows an empty corridor for the crucial 15 minutes.
About midnight, the Fire Department rushed Farias to St. Joseph’s Hospital, where doctors pronounced him dead.
In a phone conversation today about the footage, Iafrate said she hadn’t checked but expects that the second video shows the only available camera angle in the psychiatric section of the jail.
That's hard to believe.
The footage of Farias from 9 p.m. to 11:07 included more than a dozen different camera angles and views – evidence that the Lower Buckeye Jail has myriad cameras. Typically, at least one camera points toward jail cells. The only camera angle the sheriff provided from Farias' actual smothering conveniently points away from the cells.
New Times is working through other sources to secure a schematic of exactly which cameras point toward the cells in the jail psychiatric section. After four months of asking, a lawsuit, and two releases of video by the sheriff's lawyer, we hold out little hope that the MCSO -- short of a court order -- will abide by the the Arizona Public Records Law and provide any tape showing how Farias wound up dead at the hands of jailers.
For all that it doesn’t reveal, the new video clip does show – like the first one – that Farias was alive and kicking (literally) when he entered the cell. His leg moves slightly as the guards wrestle him out of a wheelchair and into the cell.
Guards have claimed that he needed to be aggressively restrained inside the psychiatric unit cell where he died, but (based on the first video Iafrate handed over) that seems hardly the case. Shown naked on the floor, just before he was put in the wheelchair and moved through corridors to that cell, Farias seems unable to even get up.