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The family of 44-year-old Ernest Atencio took him off life support Wednesday and he soon slipped from coma into death. That's a consequence of a fight during booking procedures with Maricopa County, Arizona, sheriff's deputies and Phoenix police a week ago. He had been arrested on assault charges, claims that he was kicking a door and confronting a woman aggressively. Members of Atencio's family say he was Tasered, and his brother Mike, who was at his bedside when the plug was pulled, said Sheriff Joe Arpaio had "murdered" him.

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.

Atencio's death comes on the heels of a three-year federal investigation that concluded there was extensive discrimination against Latinos by the Maricopa sheriff's office. That includes unlawful detention, racial profiling, punishment for not speaking English, retaliation for complaints, wide deviation from accepted police practices, a lack of accountability, a "chronic culture of disregard for basic legal and constitutional obligations," excessive force and the failure to investigate sex crimes.

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.

Originally posted to Meteor Blades on Fri Dec 23, 2011 at 12:32 PM PST.

Also republished by Baja Arizona Kossacks, ClassWarfare Newsletter: WallStreet VS Working Class Global Occupy movement, and Daily Kos.

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