Attorney says "gratuitous violence" led to inmate's death

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PHOENIX, Ariz.--The attorney for the family of a man who died after a scuffle at a Maricopa County Jail says videotape of the incident suggests officers engaged in "gratuitous violence"  against Ernest "Marty" Atencio.

The Maricopa County Sheriff's Office said in an initial statement that Atencio was being "combative" towards officers during the booking process, but attorney Michael Manning says there is no proof of that on jail surveillance video.

Manning says Atencio was bipolar and not taking his medications at the time of the arrest.

The results of an autopsy are expected by Friday.

"We were horrified by the video, and surprised to see Marty was never combative," Manning said. "He didn't raise his arms at anybody, didn't kick anybody, didn't try to headbutt anyone, he was clearly confused."

Atencio was arrested by Phoenix police on suspected assault charges on December 15th. He was brought to Fourth Avenue jail early the next morning.

Video released by Maricopa County Sheriff's Office shows Atencio arriving at the jail at 1 a.m. He is then placed in a holding cell with other officers where he appears restless and pacing.

Nearly an hour and a half later Phoenix police officers and Maricopa County Sheriff's deputies bring him into another room for processing.

They release Atencio from handcuffs and appear to speak to him for a few moments. Soon after the officers grab him and restrain him, with additional officers joining in the effort.

At one point video shows nearly a dozen officers on top of Atencio.

"You don't see the fist, or the knee to the gut or the face, but you can see that they're roughing him up," Manning says.

Manning says doctors believe Atencio was tased multiple times.

Officers then carry Atencio into a holding cell where again a number of them crowd around and on-top of them.

When they are seen leaving the safe cell about three minutes later, Atencio is naked and motionless, faced-down on the floor.

When officers return to check on him about 15 minutes later they find him non-responsive and begin CPR.

Atencio was eventually transported to the hospital. His family says he was brain dead upon arrival.

"We talked to police experts around the country and their reaction is this a horrendous episode of very bad policing, very cruel policing," Manning said.

"One the unprovoked physical assault on Marty and two, this lack of medical reaction, a complete indifference to this man's respiratory arrest and probably cardiac arrest."

Both Phoenix Police and the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office declined to respond to Manning's allegations, citing ongoing investigations into the incident.

In a statement released last week Maricopa County Sheriff's Office said: "[Atencio] continued to be abusive with arresting officers during the booking process. Phoenix Police were forced to continue to use defensive efforts and Maricopa County Sheriff's Office staff assisted in restraining the individual and attempted to complete the booking process."