Report: inmate died from cardiac arrest after jailhouse brawl

Posted: Updated:
By Andrew Michalscheck By Andrew Michalscheck

PHOENIX -- The million dollar question in the case of Ernest 'Marty' Atencio is how did he die? His family and their attorney say aggressive treatment, including tasing, inside an MCSO jail is to blame.

Atencio was arrested for assault in December 2011, and while he looks calm in jailhouse surveillance video, deputies say he was combative.

All of a sudden deputies grabbed Atencio, took him down and piled on him, not once, but twice in two separate cells. After 15 minutes, deputies returned to find him lifeless on the floor.

He was transported to a hospital where he died days later.

But did those images capture what that lead to Atencio's death? A new report from the Maricopa County Medical Examiner says yes, in part.

In examining Atencio's body, he believes Atencio died of complications of a sudden cardiac arrest in an environment where he was suffering from acute psychosis, the law enforcement subdual and other medical problems.

While his autopsy showed damage from prior drug and alcohol abuse, the toxicology report showed pills for depression and the local anesthetic Lidocane in Atencio's system.

But in the end, the examiner said Atencio's manner of death is undetermined, and the debate over what these results say about his death will likely be argued in court.

Atencio's family attorney has said they intend to file a lawsuit. MCSO said because of that threat of a lawsuit, it's not advisable for anyone there to comment.