An internal investigation is under way, according to the sheriff's office.
Given the way Arpaio has run things in his nearly 20 years as Maricopa County sheriff, Atencio's death comes as no surprise. He, or someone else detained by the department, was bound to end up brain dead for no good reason, with family and friends sobbing and furious around him.
The Justice Department gave the flamboyant, ultra-conservative Arpaio, who bills himself as "America's Toughest Sheriff," 60 days to come up with a court-enforceable agreement dealing with the issues raised in the investigation. It also severed some ties between the Department of Homeland Security and the sheriff's office. Arpaio, true to form, responded to the release of the investigators' conclusions with what amounted to flipping them the bird. It's all political, he said. Just Democrats beating up on a Republican. Nothing to see here, folks. Move along.
Trailed by reporters, Arpaio himself tried to move along, saying:
"I'm not trying to avoid you, we have to do an investigation. We do it all the time, we have an incident in the jails...we're going to do this one too, very professionally."
All the time, indeed. Professionally? Not so much.
You'd think that somewhere in news from the land of “America’s Toughest Sheriff,” the conclusions about abuses and civil rights violations and failure to investigate cases of pedophilia would be countered by data about how the sheriff's efforts have driven crime way down, so the critics should just shut up.
As the chart at the top shows, however, crime is down in Arizona. In all but Arpaio's jurisdiction. Besides being a bully and a racist, he's incompetent.
[UPDATE]: The Maricopa Country Sheriff's Office has released eight hours of jail video leading up to and including the altercation of deputies with Ernest Atencio.