$20M claim filed in death of man being booked into Arizona jail

Posted: Updated:
By Andrew Michalscheck By Andrew Michalscheck

PHOENIX -- Two Phoenix police officers and the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office could face a $20 million lawsuit connected to the death of a man being booked into the Fourth Avenue Jail late last year.

An attorney for the family of Ernest "Marty" Atencio filed the claim Friday. It's the precursor to a lawsuit.

44-year-old Atencio died on December 20, four days after an altercation with police and detention officers in a Maricopa County Jail.

A county medical examiner's report released last week said Atencio died of complications from cardiac arrest, but didn't list the manner of death.

The claim alleges that excessive force was used and is seeking $15 million from county agencies and $5 million from Phoenix police. 

"They didn't use control holds. They didn't need to control him. They uncuffed him. You don't uncuff someone who's going to be aggressive, or you think is going to be aggressive or resist. Without any provocation, the Phoenix P.D. officers attacked him, and then nine MCSO detention officers joined in the attack," said Mike Manning, the Atencio family's attorney.

The law enforcement agencies are not allowed to comment, however, the attorney for MCSO filed a motion to dismiss the case Friday. 

MCSO originally issued 3TV a statement saying "Atencio was abusive with arresting officers, who were forced to continue using defensive efforts. Detention officers assisted in restraining him."