PHOENIX - The top county prosecutor for metropolitan Phoenix says his office will review criminal cases involving a former sheriff's deputy who was found to have kept evidence from investigations inside his home about a week before his death in an apparent suicide.
Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery said Thursday that an unknown number of cases involving former Deputy Ramon Charley Armendariz's work as an officer will have to be reviewed to determine whether the discoveries will affect past and current criminal cases.
Investigators searching Armendariz's home in west Phoenix said they found evidence from criminal cases dating back to 2007, a collection of IDs belonging to other people and suspected illegal drugs.
Police were called after Armendariz reported a burglary in progress on April 30 at his home in west Phoenix. No burglar was found, and Armendariz later died in an apparent hanging after his arrest on suspicion of drug possession.
If Armendariz had started an investigation and didn't turn in police reports or evidence, prosecutors wouldn't be able to pursue those cases in court, Montgomery said.
"The person who had firsthand knowledge isn't around anymore," Montgomery said.
The sheriff's office didn't respond to a request for comment Thursday afternoon on the agency's investigation of Armendariz.
Last week, Sheriff Joe Arpaio said he didn't yet know whether Armendariz's alleged crimes were limited to the former deputy or whether he was working on behalf of criminals. His office is conducting an internal affairs investigation to determine whether other employees were involved.
Officers who responded to the break-in call found Armendariz armed with a pepper ball gun and chasing a phantom burglar. Investigators suspect Armendariz, who resigned from the police agency after his arrest, was either under the influence of drugs or having a manic episode. Armendariz claimed to have taken a sleeping aid.
Days later, police went to the home again after friends of Armendariz became concerned that he was threatening to harm himself. After a nearly nine-hour barricade situation, he surrendered peacefully and was taken to a psychiatric center. He was found dead on May 8 after he failed to get an electronic ankle monitor ordered as a condition of his release from jail.
Investigators searching the home found numerous driver's licenses, ID cards, passports, credit cards, airport security clearance cards and wallets.
Boxes of sheriff's office documents, including criminal citations that were never prosecuted because copies hadn't been given to the courts, also were discovered. Some citations had been completed but were torn up, according to search warrant records.