Legal papers filed Wednesday accuse three Maricopa County sheriff’s jailers of beating to death a blind man jailed in Tent City.
The $15 million notice of claim against the sheriff’s office and the county Board of Supervisors, accuses Sheriff Joe Arpaio of creating a "culture of cruelty" that contributed to the death of Brian Crenshaw, 40, who suffered a degenerative eye disorder and could see shapes only with corrective glasses.
Attorney Michael J. Manning, who represents Crenshaw’s family, claims that detention officers attacked Crenshaw on March 7 while he was in line for lunch when he did not show his jail identification card.
Crenshaw refused twice to present the ID, which inmates are required to wear at all times, and threw his badge at the guard, sheriff’s officials said.
The legal notice states that two other guards got involved in the struggle after Crenshaw and the detention officer fell to the floor. Crenshaw was separated from the general population and put into a visitation holding cell, where he and the guard fell again.
Crenshaw was taken to Maricopa County’s Madison Street Jail in Phoenix after the fight as part of the disciplinary process. A guard found Crenshaw on the floor of his cell March 13 and called medical help.
Crenshaw, who was com- complaining of abdominal pains, was evaluated by medical staff and taken to Maricopa Medical Center in Phoenix, according to the legal claim. He was released from custody while he was being treated at the hospital, Manning said. Crenshaw died April 15 after falling into a coma.
Emergency room personnel found that Crenshaw had a broken neck and toes. The legal claim says sheriff’s officials never told the emergency room staff that Crenshaw was suffering from stomach pains.
In addition, Manning claims that sheriff’s officials never notified Crenshaw’s family about the injury, denying them a chance to speak with him before he died.
Arpaio’s attorney, Jack MacIntyre, said deputies had contacted Crenshaw’s family.
According to an autopsy report, Crenshaw died from a puncture in his stomach lining, which Manning said resulted from the jailhouse beating.
MacIntyre, called the notice of claim an "exercise in creative writing" and said the legal document was driven by money and politics.
"This is a vendetta against Sheriff Arpaio," MacIntyre said, adding that the document was scandalous and mean-spirited. He rebutted claims that jail guards had beaten Crenshaw and said there is no medical evidence to back such a claim.
Crenshaw was being held on a suspected parole violation, Manning said. He did not show up to a mandatory meeting with his parole officer.
Crenshaw was convicted and served prison time for possession and use of methamphetamine, Manning said.
"This is a cruel and dangerous jail where officers think of themselves as punishers instead of jailers," Manning said.