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He's considered Sheriff Bully

A scathing Justice Department report accuses Arizona's Sheriff Joe Arpaio of bias toward Latinos. Some of his accusers couldn't agree more.

December 22, 2011|By Ashley Powers and Stephen Ceasar, Los Angeles Times

For the department to launch a sweep, sometimes all it took was a citizen's letter to Arpaio asking whether a city's day laborers "are here under legitimate circumstances." A judge heard arguments Thursday in a lawsuit that accuses Arpaio's department of racial profiling during the immigration patrols.

Once in jail, Latino inmates were taunted with racial slurs and refused replacements for soiled clothes if they asked for them in Spanish. This week, a former female inmate filed a lawsuit accusing sheriff's deputies of shackling her before and after her 2009 caesarean section. And a male inmate found unresponsive after tussling with sheriff's deputies died Tuesday when he was taken off life support.

During a raid of a suspected smuggler's house in Phoenix in 2009, deputies knocked on musician Filiberto Gaucin's door. They asked whether he knew about the illegal immigrants at a nearby home and then, without a warrant, searched his house, Gaucin said.

"I had no idea that they had illegal people there," Gaucin said he told them in Spanish. "I would just go back there to throw away the trash."

Deputies restrained his hands with zip ties, he said, and made him sit outside in the mud. They did the same to his son, Filiberto Jr., who was 12. No charges were filed.

"I'm 12 years old. Why would I get handcuffed and put on the floor?" Filiberto Jr. asked. "I was confused. We did nothing wrong."

Such incidents frustrated deputies who tried to reach out to the Latino community and encountered what one told the Justice Department was a "wall of distrust." An attorney for the Maricopa County deputies' union did not respond to a request for comment.

The raids were only part of the problem, the Justice Department report said. Latino drivers were at least four times more likely to be pulled over by Maricopa County deputies than drivers of other races. Few stops turned uglier than Armando Nido's.

Nido, the man hit by the patrol car, recalled how its oil pan and bumper rolled over him before he was pinned under the vehicle. He said he heard the deputy who'd hit him, James Carey, tell his comrades: "Leave him there." Nido was stuck for about 40 minutes while deputies handcuffed his mother and tasered his brother, he and his family said in a lawsuit.

Eventually, firefighters extracted him. Nido's pelvis was broken in eight places, and pins were placed in his vertebrae, he said. Now 30, he runs a restaurant and a cellphone store, but often needs pain medication to get through the day.

The county settled his lawsuit last year for $600,000. Carey resigned and no charges were filed against him. The deputy said the episode was an accident — he thought that Nido had been trying to flee.

ashley.powers@latimes.com

stephen.ceasar@latimes.com

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