The recent homicide ruling in the death last November of burglary suspect Richard Metcalf Jr. at Erie County Medical Center has left his parents “emotionally spent,” a family spokesman said.
“Again, they are devastated,” attorney Thomas J. Casey said of the Lancaster residents. “They want the people who caused their son’s death to be held accountable. They want the truth.”
The Metcalfs – Richard Sr. and Jane – are not willing to publicly speak about the case, Casey said.
Richard Jr., 35, died Nov. 30 while in police custody at the hospital. He had been arrested in Depew three days earlier.
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.
State police are investigating what happened to Metcalf, who suffered a heart attack in an ambulance as he was being taken to ECMC for mental testing.
According to a Depew police report, Metcalf was “acting strange” when he was arrested. Police confronted him after he allegedly broke into St. Joseph’s Country Manor and Grove Catering in Depew. His unusual behavior led to reported scuffles with members of the Depew Police Department and the Erie County Sheriff’s Office.
The case may ultimately end up before an Erie County grand jury.
Erie County Sheriff Tim Howard said he “felt compelled” to respond to questions of force.
“We determined, and remain confident, that our use of force was justified and proper, and that it did not cause the death of Mr. Metcalf,” Howard wrote in an email.
“Following the medical examiner’s report, we contacted the Erie County District Attorney’s Office, and welcome an additional review, including the assistance of the New York State Police, since two different police agencies were involved. I remain certain that this review will find no fault with the conduct of our security staff.”
Depew police officials could not be reached to comment.
Former Erie County District Attorney Frank Clark said one issue, among others, is whether the physical force to subdue Metcalf was justified.
“Normally, tasing is not considered deadly physical force. You also have some evidence of blunt force trauma,” Clark said.
“There is testimony that he was difficult and had to be subdued, and now there is the wild card thrown in that this guy had a heart condition.
“The grand jury could determine if the physical force triggered other factors that triggered his death, and whether it occurred in Depew or the sheriff’s office,” Clark said.
At Metcalf’s arraignment in Depew, the judge ordered a forensic examination after police reported he had been “acting strange” and behaving violently. His mug shots at the Erie County Holding Center show him bruised and cut on the face.
“He walked into the Holding Center Tuesday afternoon, and he was taken out a little more than 30 hours later face down on a stretcher. He was taken to Buffalo General Hospital, where he was treated and then transferred to ECMC because of the trauma,” Casey said.
“On Friday afternoon, Nov. 30, he was declared brain-dead,” Casey said.
Metcalf, who Casey said worked in the stockroom at Walmart in Depew, stood 6 feet tall and weighed about 200 pounds.
Casey said the corrected death certificate issued April 25 listed the manner of death as a “heart attack as a consequence of hypertension, stress, liver disease and blunt force injuries.”
Casey in February filed a notice of claim against the Village of Depew and the village police department, as well as Erie County, the Erie County Sheriff’s Office and Erie County Medical Center.