Feathered Bastard

Joe Arpaio's Victim Marty Atencio: Family Files Notices of Claim Totaling $20 Million in Wrongful Death Case

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Equally disgusting is the account of one witness, who tells how detention officers secured a now-infamous mug shot of Atencio making a weird face for the camera.

"While Marty was having his mug shot taken," said the witness. "The guards were taunting him, telling him to `turn left,' `turn right,'and making fun of Marty's inability to follow instructions. As the guards made fun of Marty, they encouraged him to make funny faces and the photographer, a female detention officer, kept saying `let's make this one the Mug Shot of the Week.' After they took his Mug Shot, the detention officers brought Marty back to the holding tank."

(You can read the notice of claim to the MCSO, here; and the notice of claim to the City of Phoenix, here.)

For those out there who will assert, despite evidence to the contrary, that Atencio somehow deserved his fate, keep in mind the testimony below of Cathy Boyd. It was because Atencio scared Boyd that he ended up being arrested by the Phoenix Police department:

"Marty did not physically threaten me at any time. He did not make comments that made me think he would harm me . . . . . I didn't want Marty to be arrested; he had not touched me, he wasn't verbally belligerent. 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 . . . .

"[The officer] was saying, `We can't take him downtown for 'this' because he didn't do 'that'" I understood the officer was looking for a reason to arrest Marty. All I wanted was take him downtown and get him some help. The officer said he was going to arrest Marty for verbal assault due to the fact Marty scared me. He asked if I was scared at any time. I said yes, when Marty's face was close to mine. My first thought was to push him away. However, I knew if I didn't instigate a physical altercation, I would be okay."

Previously-released Phoenix Police reports on Atencio's arrest, as well as accounts from staff at Fourth Avenue, make it plain that though Atencio was saying odd things and acting strangely, he did not deserve the treatment he received at the hands of MCSO and PPD officers.

I asked Manning about the contention of some interviewed by MCSO investigators that Atencio had at one point said he had smoked meth before being arrested.

"We are sure that Marty did not tell anyone at the jail that he had smoked meth that day," Manning explained. "His system was utterly free of illicit drugs and alcohol. MCSO frequently makes up justifications for their assaults on detainees."

Indeed, toxicology reports done by St. Joseph's Hospital with blood drawn from Atencio upon admission, and by the county medical examiner's office, back up Manning's assertion that Atencio had nothing illicit in his system.

Manning's notices of claim also blast the medical examiner's office for playing a "partisan role" in the investigation and for "stonewalling" the Atencio family's request for public records.

The veteran attorney is withering in his assessment of the medical examiner's conclusion that the manner of death in the Atencio case is "undetermined," when it in fact was, "so obviously a `homicide,' i.e., caused at the hands of other human beings."

In fact,  as Manning points out, it seems self-evident that Atencio's "lethal cardiac arrest," described by the county autopsy, was due to his treatment at the hands of his jailers.

Atencio was a veteran and came from a family of veterans. No amount of money will compensate the family for its loss. Though, given the facts in the case, a sizable award or settlement seems inevitable.

Will the electorate finally hold Arpaio responsible for a string of such unnecessary deaths over the years? Will the officers involved be held accountable for their deeds? Will County Attorney Bill Montgomery do his duty and seek indictments in the Atencio killing?

Sadly, I have to wonder if the answer to any of those questions will be, "Yes."

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Stephen is a former staff writer and columnist at Phoenix New Times.
Contact: Stephen Lemons