Activist: Dead MCSO Deputy Wanted To Be Whistleblower

By Jude Joffe-Block
June 12, 2014
Jude Joffe-Block
Activist Lydia Guzman was approached by Armendariz more than a year before he died.

PHOENIX - New information is surfacing in the bizarre case of a Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office deputy who apparently killed himself last month after a stash of drugs and hundreds of IDs were found in his home.

One activist says the deputy wanted to be a whistleblower against the Sheriff’s Office.

Back in February 2013, Deputy Ramon Charley Armendariz approached Phoenix activist Lydia Guzman to talk.

It was an unlikely meeting. Guzman is a plaintiff in the racial profiling lawsuit against the sheriff’s office. And Armendariz was one of the deputies mentioned in the complaint. He had testified in the trial.

What happened next surprised Guzman.

“He said that he approached his bosses, his superiors, and he told them, 'I don’t want to participate in your illegal activity anymore,'” Guzman said. “He told me that since he said that to them, they started harassing him, they started treating him bad.”

What the alleged illegal activity that Armendariz wanted out of isn’t clear. Guzman didn’t press for details.

“He expressed that he wanted to share information with the Department of Justice and the FBI,” Guzman said. “And he said, 'I need to talk to them, can you get in touch with them?' And I said I’ll try.”

But it was complicated.

Armendariz was still employed by the Sheriff Joe Arpaio's department, and that presented conflicts, Guzman said, since DOJ was suing the agency.

Guzman said it concerns her that MCSO is investigating his case, since they may not want the full story to come out.

Armendariz was arrested after drugs were discovered at his home. Phoenix police noticed them while responding to a 911 call he placed, reporting what he believed was a burglary.

He was released from jail on the condition that he would be fitted for an ankle bracelet. But he never showed up for that appointment, and instead was found dead in his home. 

In a closed door hearing last month with the parties in the racial profiling case, a theory was suggested about what Armendariz may have been doing with the hundreds of IDs, driver's licenses and license plates in his possession.

U.S. District Judge Murray Snow asked MCSO leaders whether Armendariz may have been “shaking down some illegal aliens,” according to court transcripts.

“That is part of our understanding,” MCSO Chief Deputy Jerry Sheridan said. “He very well could have. What’s mysterious to me is why we didn’t get any complaints from those people.”

Guzman, however, said there could be a number of reasons why Armendariz had those items in his home.

"Whether or not he intended to turn that over to [the DOJ and FBI] as evidence for an allegation that he was about to make is something that I can only speculate," Guzman said.

The Sheriff’s Office did not return a request to comment.