While the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office remains mostly quiet, the family of a man who was found not breathing in a county jail Friday night is clamoring for answers.
The family of 44-year-old Ernest Marty Atencio spoke exclusively with CBS 5 News over the weekend as they waited outside the emergency room of St. Joseph's Hospital, where Marty Atencio was near death, the result, the family says, of carelessness on the part of jail personnel.
"He is hanging on a thread, machines are the only things keeping him alive," said Mike Atencio, Marty's brother. "It is my belief that he was murdered by the sheriff's office."
The family was told the man was arrested for assault, and while being booked became combative. An officer used a stun gun to subdue him, the family said, and he was placed in a safe cell, where he was under observation by medical personnel. When they checked on him about 15 minutes later, the staff found him not breathing, according to Jack MacIntyre, a deputy chief with the sheriff's office.
MacIntyre denied that anyone "died" in the Fourth Avenue Jail that night, and acknowledged that an unidentified person had to be restrained during the booking process. In an official statement, MacIntyre said medical staff initiated CPR and other rescuscitive efforts before the arrestee was taken to a hospital for treatment.
The official statement was the only response from the sheriff's office.
"It is beyond me that he could not have had any type of care or level of care to be allowed to turn blue, so he was found in his cell at MCSO without a pulse," Mike Atencio said.
The family said Marty Atencio has a mental illness and the family says using a stun gun was likely not necessary. They said there were marks from the gun's barbs on Marty Atencio's chest.
"They treated him as less than a human being," Mike Atencio said. " I believe that they took advantage of someone who has special needs."
The family's biggest problem, however, is not with the use of a stun gun, but that their brother was not cared for better after he was found not breathing.
"When a human life is involved, it should be at the highest level," said brother Eric Atencio. "It does not matter what is going on. It does not matter the circumstances. It does not matter that they are in jail. You are handling a human life."
The family said it believes Atencio did not get the help he needed and they want those responsible held accountable.
"We are just looking to have justice," Eric Atencio said. "The person who caused this harm to my brother, who may untimely pay the ultimate price, needs to pay for their mistakes just as anyone would."
Family members said they did not put much stock in the U.S. Justice Department's complaints of civil rights violations and discrimination leveled against the sheriff's office last week, but now they're worried the claims of mistreatment are true and they just hope the truth comes out and justice is served.
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