Deputy's Death Opens the Door Onto a World of Corruption in Sheriff Joe's MCSO
MCSO Deputy Ramon Charley Armendariz, in a shot taken from his Facebook profile
If there never had been a monitor appointed by Judge G. Murray Snow in the ACLU's big civil rights case, Melendres v. Arpaio, it's unlikely that we would know as much as we do about late MCSO Detective Ramon Charley Armendariz.
And yet, Armendariz, who the Sheriff's Office says took his own life by hanging May 8, remains a riddle, even as he points in death toward a panoply of grotesque corruption.
The 40-year-old was a member of Sheriff Joe Arpaio's infamous Human Smuggling Unit and trained by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement under the so-called 287(g) program, back in the days when the federal government had given de facto approval to Arpaio's transformation of the MCSO into a mini-version of ICE.
Armendariz, an El Paso native who proudly stated in court that his first language was Spanish, participated in several of Arpaio's immigrant-hunting sweeps.
See, Armendariz testified during the 2012 Melendres civil trial, mainly because he was involved, indirectly, in the detention of Manuel Nieto Jr. and his sister Velia Meraz during a March 2008 immigration sweep in Cave Creek.
Armendariz got into a verbal confrontation with Nieto and Meraz, both American citizens, while Armendariz had two men cuffed in the parking lot of a convenience store.
Nieto and Meraz say the Mexican music blaring from their van was what drew Armendariz's attention to them. Armendariz called for backup and signaled to other cops to follow the pair after they obeyed his order to leave.
MCSO deputies stopped the van in front of the auto-repair business owned by the pair's father, drawing their weapons and pointing them at Nieto, whom they roughly pulled from the car.
The deputies eventually left without citing the pair, who later became plaintiffs in the Melendres suit.
Asked during the trial why he thought the MCSO arrested a high number of Latinos, Armendariz answered that it had to do with Arizona's being a "Latino state" and that "the majority of our population is Latino."
Currently, the total Latino population of Arizona is a little more than 30 percent.
Why were his pull-over rates so high, compared to some other deputies, plaintiff's counsel wondered?
It had to do with his "high work ethic," Armendariz replied.
Evidently, Armendariz was prolific in other areas as well.