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Dying in custody: At least 95 inmates have died in MCSO custody since 2020

Since 2020, at least 95 inmates have died in custody, according to the sheriff’s office.

MARICOPA COUNTY, Ariz — At least 95 inmates have died while in custody of the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office since 2020.

It's part of a growing trend of in-custody deaths at MCSO facilities. And so far this year, at least eight more deaths have been reported.

Maricopa County Sheriff Paul Penzone pointed out the sharp rise in deaths mirrors a stunning rise in fentanyl pill seizures, and many of the deaths are drug-related, according to MCSO records.

Most of the deaths were men who ranged in age from 19-90.

Data obtained by 12News from the County Office of the Medical Examiner show these deaths have increased from 15 in 2020 to 43 in 2022.

Arnulfo Quezada Jr.

Arnulfo Quezada Jr., 30, was arrested in 2021 for burglary and drug possession according to court records. His family said Arnulfo was waiting for his trial when they were told he was found unconscious in his cell and taken to the hospital.

“He was put on a ventilator, and he wasn't breathing or anything on his own,” his sister, Alexis Banuelos told 12News.

However, the Quezada family had no idea this was happening until they say MCSO deputies knocked on their door three days after Arnulfo was admitted.

Sam Fagan

Jill and David Fagan said their son Samuel died at a Phoenix Hospital on April 13 while in Maricopa County Sheriff's Office custody. They told 12News they were shocked to learn Sam was placed on life support Saturday and weren't notified until Monday.

On the first Friday of April, the 20-year-old was arrested in Scottsdale for charges including drug possession. He was taken to the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office Jail on 4th Avenue. His mom said Sam called her shortly after he was behind bars.

"I thought maybe the best thing would be to let him be in jail for a few days, kind of sober up and then I can pick them up and take them to rehab,” Jill said.

While working on setting up that treatment and finding how much it would be to pay for Sam's bond, Jill said it had been two days since she heard from him. Then on Monday, she said a detective with the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office called and told her that Sam had attempted suicide while in his cell and suffered unrevivable brain damage.

Adam Delk

Adam Delk, 41, was arrested back in October 2021, and charged with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, according to online court records.

Delk was driving in Glendale when he was hit by another car, his mom said. The driver took off and Delk followed him to his home. That's when the situation escalated.

Delk was never convicted of the crime, but spent nearly two years behind bars at the MCSO 4th Avenue jail because his family said his bond was set too high to pay. 

On the day Delk died, deputies received a call for medical assistance to one of the cells around 11 a.m. 

They provided first aid to Delk and transported him to a nearby hospital where Delk was pronounced dead.

"I don't know anything other than my son passed away," his mother said.

Investigators have not revealed Delk's cause of death and an autopsy has not been released to the public.

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How big is Maricopa County?:

Maricopa County is the United States’ 4th largest county in terms of population with 4,485,414 people, according to the 2020 Census.

The county contains around 63% of Arizona’s population and is 9,224 square miles. That makes the county larger than seven U.S. states (Rhode Island, Delaware, Connecticut, Hawaii, New Jersey, Massachusetts and New Hampshire).

One of the largest park systems in the nation is also located in Maricopa County. The county has an estimated 120,000 acres of open space parks that includes hundreds of miles of trails, nature centers and campgrounds.

The county’s seat is located in Phoenix, which is also the state capital and the census-designated 5th most populous city in the United States.


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