Dog Day Afternoon

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The grand scale of the assault by Arpaio's Barney Fifes made neighbors wonder if Osama himself was holed up in the house. As details about the raid circulated through the community and word spread about the absence of any serious and immediate threat to the peace, neighbors became enraged over Arpaio's ludicrous use of force.

"We gathered all around all afternoon to talk," Madrigal says. "We were all saying this was just ridiculous. They just went way overboard. This was just crazy. They should have given us some kind of warning."

Finally, MCSO packed up its toys and went away.

But the stench from their operation would continue to linger for almost a week.

MCSO's callousness toward the dog, its owners and the neighborhood continued for another five days as the dog lay decomposing inside the burned-out house.

Delfino says the stench permeated his car and left neighbors gagging when they went near the house.

"When I finally went in [to the house], it was enough to make you throw up," Delfino says.

It never occurred to the MCSO that the rotting dog was a health hazard and a public nuisance. Once Arpaio's deputies finished their so-called investigation, they walked away from the mess they created, leaving Dre's body embedded in the rubble.

It was only then that the occupants were allowed inside.

Delfino says he was with Kush and Trisha Golden when, while digging through burned debris on the kitchen floor, they came across Dre's remains. Kush, Delfino recalls, fell to his knees and began vomiting.

They could only stay in the room for a few moments, but long enough to gather some evidence of the animal cruelty inflicted by Arpaio's deputies.

"I took a picture of [Golden] with a shovel holding the dog's head," Delfino says.

The Ahwatukee fiasco is just the latest in a long string of bumblings and constitutional breaches by Arpaio and his nimrods. This comes on the heels of last November's botched prostitution raid where Arpaio's bozo posse men got naked and, in some cases, had sexual relations with hookers -- leaving Maricopa County Attorney Rick Romley little choice but to throw out the cases.

Then there was the publicity-stunt televised arrest of two Peoria firefighters on arson charges during the middle of their night shift. The arrest sidelined a fire truck for the rest of the evening, putting lives needlessly at risk. Two months later, Arpaio's detectives haven't filed a police report with Romley's office, and no charges have been filed against the firefighters.

And there was the Glen Campbell charade, where Arpaio insisted to the press that Campbell would be treated like any other inmate. Of course, he was put up in a clean, air-conditioned cell at a seldom-used holding facility in Mesa. Campbell brought along his favorite guitar, a cell phone and an orthopedic back mattress. Toward the end of his cushy 10-day jail sentence, Campbell stroked Joe with the now-infamous Tent City concert.

While the incidents listed above are bad enough, they don't get at the more serious problems during Arpaio's 12-year reign. Inmates continue to be killed and maimed in Arpaio's county dungeons, ranked as among the worst in the world by Amnesty International. About 9,000 people are stuffed into the county's jails, which were built to hold a maximum of 5,000 inmates.

Increasingly paranoid, Arpaio routinely uses his police powers to illegally investigate political opponents and silence any employee and, in some cases, any private citizen, who dares to criticize his office.

At the same time, Arpaio refuses to comply with Arizona's public records law, flagrantly ignoring my requests for routine records concerning the financial operations of the jail. My demand for the financial documents relating to the jail commissary comes on the heels of my discovery that Arpaio has invested an inordinately large amount of cash ($800,000) in three commercial real estate ventures. His spokeswoman insists that nothing is amiss here, but Arpaio refuses to divulge the details of these transactions.

Now, members of Sheriff Joe's SWAT team have laughed over the death of a dog and at its owners who were tearfully trying to coax their pet out of the burning house.

Again, Sheriff Joe is hiding, refusing to return my repeated requests for an interview about why he let his goons do what they did to Dre.

The really sick thing is that Arpaio has gotten huge publicity for his campaign against animal abuse. He's diverted scarce sheriff's office resources to duplicate services already provided by Maricopa County Animal Care and Control so that he can be seen as the ultimate animal protector.

Arpaio likes to brag that he spends more money feeding dogs and cats than he does feeding inmates. This, you see, makes him a tough guy, something voters in the past have dearly loved. There's story after story in the press featuring Arpaio boasting how he puts abused pets inside air-conditioned cells while inmates and pre-trial detainees are dangerously packed into stifling overcrowded cells, dormitories and tents.

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John Dougherty
Contact: John Dougherty