Jail Death: Family attorney rejects county's settlement offer
(Source: Maricopa County Sheriff's Office) Marty Atencio died in Dec., 2011, after an altercation with deputies at the Maricopa County Fourth Avenue Jail.
PHOENIX (CBS5) -
The Maricopa County Board of Supervisors approved a settlement offer of $550,000 to the family of an inmate who died following an altercation with officers in the Maricopa County Jail.
The family's lawyer didn't take long to reject the offer.
The board approved an offer of $550,000 Monday morning to the family of Marty Atencio, who was found not breathing Dec. 16, 2011, after an altercation with deputies at the Four Avenue Jail. Atencio, 44, died a few days later.
The family sued the sheriff's office, city of Phoenix, Phoenix police officers and a county correctional health employee.
The original notice of claim filed last fall requested $20 million to settle the case.
Atencio family attorney Michael Manning quickly rejected the offer later Monday.
"It really is just a political and legal ploy on their part," said Manning. "They know that our clients would never settle for $550,000."
No other offer has been made to the family.
Deputies used a stun gun on Atencio after he became combative while being booked on suspicion of assault.
The family said Atencio had a history of mental illness and that a stun gun was likely not necessary. They said there were marks from the gun's barbs on Atencio's chest.
"They treated him as less than a human being," said Mike Atencio, Marty Atencio's brother. "I believe that they took advantage of someone who has special needs."
The family's biggest problem, however, was not with the use of a stun gun, but that their brother was not cared for better after he was found not breathing.
"When a human life is involved, it should be at the highest level," said brother Eric Atencio. "It does not matter what is going on. It does not matter the circumstances. It does not matter that they are in jail. You are handling a human life."
The family said it believes Marty Atencio did not get the help he needed.
The sheriff's office claimed that Marty Atencio was abusive and uncooperative from the moment he was taken into custody.
Jail video released by MCSO on Dec. 16, 2011, shows Marty Atencio acting erratically in the booking area, sometimes yelling and screaming.
According to the lawsuit, Marty Atencio was not violent and did not require a sudden takedown by officers and then be repeatedly hit with a stun gun.
"It's a case that on video shows utterly inhumane brutality towards a very vulnerable sick citizen," said Manning. "Police procedure 101 is that you never uncuff an inmate you think might be dangerous. They knew he wasn't dangerous. They knew he was harmless and they uncuffed him and a few minutes later they attacked him."
Over the past 20 years, Maricopa County has paid out about $24 million to settle cases involving its jails.
County Supervisor Mary Rose Wilcox said it's time to find a way to prevent these types of things from happening.
"It's very sad this happens, but we must be responsible as the county if we can settle this with the family," said Wilcox. "You can never pay for a life. Never would I say this qualifies as paying for a life, but maybe you can ease their burden and everybody can move on."
Manning said that he is open to further negotiations with the county and would prefer to settle the case rather than have a trial.
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