PHOENIX (Reuters) - The family of a mentally ill man who died after being held in controversial Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio’s custody filed a civil lawsuit on Tuesday alleging that detention staff taunted, beat and shocked the man with a stun gun in violation of his rights.
The suit was brought in state court by the family of Ernest “Marty” Atencio. It claimed that he was assaulted after he was booked into a Maricopa County lockup in Phoenix on December 15. He collapsed and died five days later.
The lawsuit also names other plaintiffs including Maricopa County, the city of Phoenix and several individuals.
The case is the latest of numerous suits faced by Maricopa County lawman Arpaio, who styles himself “America’s Toughest Sheriff” and is known for sweeps to round up illegal immigrants and no-frills treatment of inmates in county jails.
It states that Atencio was taunted, “tased, punched and manhandled” by detention staff who used “excessive, unreasonable and gratuitous force” in violation of his constitutional rights.
The suit seeks a jury trial and unspecified damages.
In a statement, Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Chief Jack MacIntyre declined to comment on the lawsuit pending what he said was “our review of the complaints raised today.”
Arpaio, who is seeking re-election to a sixth term in office in November, is also facing a U.S. Justice Department probe and lawsuit relating to alleged civil rights abuses by his office, including accusations of widespread racial profiling in his immigration enforcement.
A federal judge is expected to rule soon in another suit brought against Arpaio, this one a class-action case by five Hispanic citizens who claimed they were stopped by the sheriff’s deputies because of their ethnicity.
Reporting by Tim Gaynor; Editing by Will Dunham