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With the family of the late Richard A. Metcalf Jr. of Depew already preparing lawsuits against the Depew Police Department and the Erie County government over Metcalf’s death while he was in custody, the Erie County Medical Examiner’s Office ruled Tuesday that it was a homicide.

Metcalf, 35, who was arrested last November by Depew police on burglary charges, died in Erie County Medical Center late on the afternoon of Nov. 30, three days after he was sent there for a mental health evaluation following an alleged scuffle with sheriff’s deputies in the Erie County Holding Center in downtown Buffalo.

Undersheriff Mark Wipperman said Tuesday night that state police are conducting an investigation into the death of Metcalf, who suffered a heart attack in an ambulance as he was being taken to ECMC for mental testing.

“I join with Sheriff [Timothy B.] Howard in saying we are confident the Erie County Sheriff’s Office will be found guilty of only one thing,” Wipperman said, “trying to get inmate Metcalf the professional help he needed.”

Depew police reportedly used a stun gun twice on Metcalf as he charged at officers with a heavy metal wrench the night he was taken into custody.

He was bruised and cut when he was taken later to the Holding Center, according to booking photos taken there.

According to a Depew police report on Metcalf’s arrest, he was “acting strange” when he was arrested. Police confronted him after he allegedly broke into St. Joseph’s Country Manor and Grove Catering on Columbia Avenue in Depew.

Because he was exhibiting unusual, strange and combative behavior and had an elevated heart rate, police took him to ECMC before he was taken to the Holding Center, investigators said.

Metcalf showed signs of mental illness and was combative with deputies at the Holding Center, according to Sheriff’s Office reports.

Guards reported seeing him picking at his arms with a plastic fork, biting himself and wiping blood on the cell walls. When they tried to restrain him, they quoted him as yelling, “I’m radioactive,” and striking his head against the cell bars and a wall.

He suffered a heart attack in the ambulance taking him back to ECMC for further mental testing the day he died. He was reported to have died in the hospital’s intensive care unit at about 5:17 p.m. Nov. 30.

email: mgryta@buffnews.com