PHOENIX — Hundreds of hours of recorded traffic stops were found inside
the home of a former Maricopa County sheriff’s deputy before his death in an
apparent suicide, an attorney said Friday in revealing another potentially
troubling discovery connected to the officer.
Authorities previously found evidence from criminal cases, a collection of IDs
and illegal drugs in the home of former Deputy Ramon Charley Armendariz. On
Friday, about 900 hours of recordings by Armendariz of his stops of motorists
were publicly revealed in a racial-profiling case against Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s
office. The recordings were the subject of a nearly two-hour closed-door meeting
in federal court on Wednesday.
Dan Pochoda, one of the attorneys pressing the profiling case against Arpaio,
said the recordings that Armendariz voluntarily made of his traffic stops from a
camera he wore on his glasses should have been turned over to opposing attorneys
at trial, but they weren’t.
Pochoda said the sheriff’s office has reviewed 250 of the recordings and has
found what was described as problematic behavior by Armendariz that he declined
to specify. Pochoda said Armendariz had recorded between 2,500 to 5,000 traffic
“He appears to be a tainted officer,” Pochoda said.
Pochoda said the recordings will be turned over to county and federal
Armendariz was found dead from an apparent hanging at his west Phoenix home on
May 8. About a week before his death, Armendariz was arrested on a charge of
drug possession after he reported a burglary in progress on April 30 at his
home. No burglars were found, and investigators believe he was either under the
influence of drugs or having a manic episode. He resigned after his arrest.
Days later, police went to the home again after friends of Armendariz became
concerned that he was threatening to harm himself. After a nearly nine-hour
barricade situation, he surrendered peacefully and was taken to a psychiatric
center. He was found dead after he failed to get an electronic ankle monitor
ordered as a condition of his release from jail.
Investigators searching Armendariz’s home in west Phoenix said they found
evidence from criminal cases dating back to 2007, a collection of IDs belonging
to other people and suspected illegal drugs.
The sheriff’s office didn’t immediately return a message Friday afternoon
seeking comment. Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery this week acknowledged
that several cases will have to be revisited because of a situation brought on
by Armendariz that he described as a “mess.”
Armendariz’s recordings will be turned over to a court-appointed official who
is helping U.S. District Judge Murray Snow monitor the sheriff’s office, Pochoda
Nearly a year ago, Snow ruled the sheriff’s office has systematically racially
profiled Latinos in its immigration and regular traffic patrols. Armendariz was
a witness in the case.
Arpaio denies that his agency profiles people and has appealed the ruling.
In response to the racial-profiling ruling, Snow is now requiring the sheriff’s
office to install video cameras in hundreds of the agency’s patrol vehicles.
Pochoda said there was no such camera requirement before the profiling ruling
and that sheriff’s deputies at that point could have voluntarily recorded their
stops of motorists. It’s not known how many other deputies made such recordings.
While Snow has already made his racial-profiling ruling, the sheriff office
faces a similar lawsuit in which the recordings might also prove relevant.
The U.S. Justice Department has filed a civil rights lawsuit against the
sheriff’s office alleging a broader range of constitutional violations,
including racial profiling and retaliating against the agency’s critics.
Arpaio’s office vigorously denies the allegations in the Justice Department