A Latino Gulf War veteran had to be put on life support just hours after being arrested by deputies under the supervision of controversial Sheriff Joe Arpaio. Now his family, activists, and critics of “America’s Toughest Sheriff” are demanding for answers.
At around 3 a.m. Friday, Ernest M. Atencio, 44, was taken into custody on assault charges in Maricopa County. He was taken into a Phoenix jail, where some kind of altercation broke out according to prison officials. Atencio was then Tasered and put in a jail cell to “calm down.” When medical staff went to check on him 15 to 20 minutes later, Atencio was unresponsive and the staff began CPR.
Antencio was then taken to St. Joseph’s Hospital in Phoenix in critical condition. His family stated that he suffered a heart attack and was not tended to quickly enough. He is reportedly brain dead and is currently still on life support, with his family deciding when or whether to take him off.
According to a report from the U.S. Department of Justice, Sheriff Arpaio is running his office based on blatant racism against Latinos, including racial profiling, and a number of other civil rights violations.
The head of the DOJ’s civil rights division stated that the DOJ “found discriminatory policing that was deeply rooted in the culture of the department, a culture that breeds a systematic disregard for basic constitutional protections.”
Arpaio maintains that he and those he commands are not racists and that the allegations against him are simply politically motivated by the Obama administration.
Whatever Arpaio thinks is no consolation to Antencio’s family, who say they are waiting until his out-of-town family arrives to say goodbye before they make the decision to take him off life support.
Antencio’s story was first revealed by Scottsdale Police Lieutenant Mike Stauffer who posted on his Facebook page, “Latino inmate at 4th Avenue Jail is brain dead due to excessive force by detention officers.”
Antencio’s family described him as “sweet and loving,” but did say he suffered from an unspecified “mental condition.”