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Updated Jun 20, 2012 - 5:27 pm

Video doesn’t show fight before inmate’s death

PHOENIX – Surveillance video from an Arizona jail where an inmate died
earlier this month doesn’t show the inmate getting into any fights or disputes
with jail officers or other inmates, despite his family’s claims that bruises
and cuts on his body show that he was physically harmed while incarcerated.

The video shows 40-year-old Raymond Manuel Farinas arriving in jail, resting in
a holding cell, having his fingerprints taken, being frisked by a jail officer
and brought to the cell where he was found unresponsive on June 3.

The Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office, which runs the jail, has said there was
no physical contact between Farinas and jail officers or other inmates during
his 11 hours there.

Joy Bertrand, an attorney representing the Farinas family, said the death needs
to be investigated. She cited the frequency of deaths in Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s
jails and a black eye that his family reported they saw when they were allowed
to view his body, even though he entered the jail without one.

“We don’t have a consistent explanation of his death,” Bertrand said.

Cari Gerchick, a spokeswoman for the Maricopa County Medical Examiner’s Office,
which examined Farinas’ body, said no official cause of death has been
determined.

The sheriff’s office declined to comment about the video.

The video shows that a jail officer was called to Farinas’ cell about 11 hours
after he brought to the Fourth Avenue jail in downtown Phoenix. His cellmate
left the cell as officers and medical personnel tended to Farinas. Then
paramedics from the Phoenix fire department arrived and tried to resuscitate
him.

He was later pronounced dead at a hospital.

The video, however, has limitations. It contains no audio. Video from one
camera was lost due to a hardware failure. And there was no camera in a shower
area where Farinas was at one time, and no footage showing what happened in
Farinas’ cell before jail officers were called there.

Maria Peralta, a former girlfriend with whom Farinas had two children, has said
she rejects the explanation offered by the sheriff’s office that Farinas choked
while eating a peanut butter sandwich. She has said she saw Farinas’ body at a
funeral home and noticed bruises on his body, scratches on his hands, a black
eye on his face and a cut above his nose.

Mug shots that accompanied the video didn’t show facial injuries when he was
booked into jail.

Peralta has said Farinas was arrested while traveling in a car with friends.
She said he was taken into custody because someone else in the car had a gun and
drugs.

She has said Farinas wasn’t carrying the weapon but was arrested because he is
a convicted felon who wasn’t supposed to be with people with guns. He had spent
18 years in prison for armed robbery, drunken driving and escape.

Critics have long complained about conditions in Arpaio’s jails. Another man
died on Dec. 30 in one of the jails run by the sheriff.

Ernest Atencio, 44, had an altercation with police and jail officers while he
was being booked on an assault charge. He was found unresponsive and died after
his family took him off life support. Atencio’s family filed a $20 million
notice of claim against Phoenix and the sheriff’s office last week.

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