The courts are still considering what could be the largest payout in a lawsuit over alleged police misconduct in Arizona that could add millions more to the millions that Arizona taxpayers, specifically Maricopa County residents, have already spent on lawsuits stemming from police misconduct.
In February 2013, the Board of Supervisors in Maricopa County, Arizona, approved a $550,000 settlement for the family of an Arizona inmate who had been shot with a stun gun and left unattended in a "safe cell," and then later died after being declared brain dead at a local hospital, The Arizona Republic reported
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The board voted unanimously 4-0 to approve the settlement for the family of Ernest "Marty" Atencio, saying they did not want the case to linger and move on to a lengthy trial. He died in 2011, five days after an altercation with jail officers and members of the Phoenix police department that occurred as he was being booked.
The family refused the settlement, and in its lawsuit against the county, described Atencio's treatment as a "jailer's riot," the Republic said. He had been hit repeatedly and a stun gun hit close to his heart, the lawsuit noted.
Atencio had been arrested for assault after allegedly screaming at a woman in a Phoenix parking lot.
The lawsuit contended that jail workers did not pay attention to mental issues in Atencio, who was 44 when he died. Police records supported the family's contentions, noting that he "would become distracted and attempt to chase cars while talking to officers," the paper said.
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According to the lawsuit, jail workers denied Atencio the medical treatment he needed, sending him through the booking process where officers allegedly made fun of Atencio’s mental state before becoming physically engaged with him.
An autopsy by the Maricopa County Medical Examiner's office did not include a manner of death — whether homicide or natural causes — the paper said, but noted that Atencio died of "cardiac arrest, acute psychosis, medical problems, and “law-enforcement subdual."
The absence of a manner of death, such as homicide or natural causes, in the report was notable, attorney Michael Manning said.
The family had previously offered to settle the case for $20 million.
Manning told The Huffington Post
that Atencio was a Gulf War veteran who had schizoaffective disorder.
"When he went into that facility everyone knew he was mentally ill," Manning, told the Post. "He wasn't resistant, violent, or combative and they mocked him, they made fun of him, and when they finished with that, they decided they would just beat him up."
The Goldwater Institute found that Maricopa County had paid out
at least $30 million in “Sheriff Department General Liability claims” in years prior to the Atencio case.
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