Arizona » Drugs, evidence bags, fake IDs, traffic-stop videos were found at house where deputy killed himself.
Phoenix When sheriff’s deputy Ramon Charley Armendariz hanged himself, he left behind a house full of questions.
The Salt Lake Tribune is reporting that among the items at his house were a stash of drugs, evidence bags from old cases, hundreds of fake IDs and thousands of his video-recorded traffic stops that were withheld in a racial-profiling case against his boss, Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio.
Now, the quest for answers has raised the possibility that a yet-to-be-determined number of his cases could be thrown out and has refocused attention on Arpaio and his department, already under close watch by a federal monitor in the profiling case.
The judge overseeing the case has raised the prospect that Armendariz may have been shaking down people living in the U.S. illegally during traffic stops, and the top prosecutor in Phoenix described the situation as a "mess" as his staff begins to sort it out.
Arpaio’s lawyer says the agency hopes Armendariz was a lone rogue officer. "I don’t know what triggered him," said Arpaio, whose territory includes the Phoenix area.
Cecillia Wang, a lawyer who pressed the profiling case, has concerns about Arpaio’s office running the investigation. "A law enforcement agency that launches this kind of investigation shouldn’t have stated a desired outcome," she said.
Armendariz moved to Arizona from Texas in 2004 to be closer to two terminally ill relatives. First a jail officer, he became a deputy and eventually joined the smuggling squad that was once the flagship of Arpaio’s immigration crackdowns.
As a member of the unit for about four years, the Spanish-speaking deputy was among dozens of officers who received special training to enforce federal immigration laws. He also took part in Arpaio’s most controversial patrols.
The deputies would flood an area — in some cases, heavily Latino areas — over several days to seek out traffic violators and arrest other offenders.
Arpaio’s office was sued over allegations that officers systematically racially profiled Latinos, and went on trial over the accusations. Armendariz was a witness, testifying that he never used race as a factor in making a traffic stop.