PHOENIX - Stripped down to their pink boxers and lying outside their cells, inmates at the Fourth Avenue Jail were subjected to a large-scale search on Friday led by Sheriff Joe Arpaio.
Maricopa County Sheriff's detention officers searched inmates' jail cells in response to continued threats by 15-year-old Leonard Moreno, who was charged this week in the deadly shooting of MCSO detention officer Jorge Vargas.
"He was talking about shanks, talking about assaulting other inmates," said Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio.
Arpaio told reporters while they've not been able to tie Moreno to a specific gang, he is being kept in isolation due to his threats and outspoken determination to become a gang member.
Officers on Friday morning searched 1,000 cells and 2,000 beds, recovering various contraband items such as rope, "shanks" made from metal objects, hypodermic needles and rosary necklaces. Jail alcohol made from fruit that's been allowed to ferment, or "hooch," was also confiscated.
"They're pretty innovative," Arpaio said as he handled several shanks found in the search. "This probably came from some metal equipment that we have, these probably from medical braces. These are pretty serious weapons. You can wipe someone out with these."
As we watched, deputies covered every inch of one cell and the property inside, feeling the corners of envelopes where drugs and razor blades are often found hidden. They even searched the seams of clothing.
"So I can run my hand in there all the way around to feel if there's anything in there. In this case, no," said Sgt. Algers, with the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office.
Algers also explained how inmates sew socks into the inside of their pants to create makeshift pockets to hide contraband and weapons.
Deputies also carefully searched mattresses where cuts were found underneath, creating another hiding spot.
Arpaio said various cells are searched daily, however, due to the nature of the threats by Moreno, a jail-wide search was conducted.
Arpaio said the shakedown will continue throughout the day.