BUFFALO, NY - Richard Metcalf Jr., 35, died of a heart attack while in custody in November of last year, and the Medical Examiner in Erie County is labeling his death a homicide.
Erie County Sheriff Timothy Howard told 2 On Your Side's Claudine Ewing, that although the coroner indicated that Metcalf's death is a homicide, "I'm not necessarily accepting that" because of the ambiguity of the language of the medical examiner's report.
Metcalf was originally arrested by Depew police in November for burglary. Police used a taser during the arrest because he was chasing an officer with a wrench. His alleged strange and combative behavior also forced police to take him to ECMC for a mental evaluation.
Once he was taken to the Holding Center in downtown Buffalo, strange behavior was also exhibited and eventually there was a struggle. Sheriff Howard says that guards were trying to protect Metcalf from hurting himself. Metcalf was taken back to the hospital and died of a heart attack.
Now that the case has been ruled a homicide, it will be reviewed by the Erie County District Attorney's office. According to Sheriff Howard, "all homicides are not criminal. It's just that a homicide, another human being was involved in the death. But I am very confident from the investigation that we had already done that there will be no finding that any member of our staff engaged in any inappropriate conduct at all."
Sheriff Howard indicated that a struggle between Metcalf and deputies at the Holding Center was the result of Metcalf's self destructive behavior. He would not elaborate on what Metcalf was doing at the time.
"If he died from a heart attack, that was a result of a struggle, the struggle was brought on by the individual, it wasn't instigated by our staff," said the Sheriff.
Attorney Thomas Casey, the spokesperson for the Metcalf family tells 2 On Your Side that he doesn't buy the sheriff's story.
He and the family believe the guards hurt Metcalf badly -- causing his death -- and devastating the family.
The family has already filed a notice of intent to sue the Depew Police Department, ECMC and Erie County.
Meantime, Casey says that he'll meet with the Metcalf's later this week to discuss the examiner's report.