BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — Richard Metcalf, Sr., smiled softly Wednesday morning as he remembered the last conversation he had with his son.
It was in late Nov. 2012, after his arraignment in local court on a burglary charge.
“Just basically proceeded to tell him that everything would be alright, you know,” he said. “Whatever happens here, just know that mom and I love you, we’re going to help you any way you can.”
Though it was their last conversation, Richard would talk to his son again two days later. But his son wouldn’t talk back, because a new state report says Erie County Sheriff’s deputies had beaten and choked the 35-year-old into a coma from which he would never return.
Hours before he passed, Metcalf, Sr. leaned over his son’s hospital bed.
“What happened? Who did this to you? He couldn’t tell us obviously,” Metcalf, Sr. said. ” But that’s what I was thinking. As a father, you just want to face the person that could do that to them. And let them take it out on me.”
It’s been four years since Richard Metcalf, Jr. died at ECMC, following a brutal final three days. But the pain for his family is still just as fresh as it was that fall.
“We knew something was wrong (in November 2012),” Metcalf, Sr. said. “He was confused about a lot of things. And he was also pretty paranoid that someone was going to get him.”
The junior Metcalf was arrested Nov. 27, 2012, after he broke into a catering business in Depew. He was Tazed twice in the takedown, but sustained only minor injuries, according to what witnesses told the state’s Commission of Corrections for its investigation into the matter, and Metcalf, Sr.
“He had a little mouse (bruise) under his eye, but other than that, his physical appearance was fine,” he said. “He appeared very tired and worn out, and I guess a little scared.”
The Metcalfs, of Lancaster, wouldn’t hear from authorities until the next morning, when they would face every parent’s biggest fear.
“We received a knock on the door at about 3 a.m. the next morning, and it was a New York State police officer with a Lancaster officer,” Metcalf, Sr. said. “And they told us that we need to get down to Buffalo General immediately, that your son has had, I think he said, a medical, catastrophic event.”
Because of his erratic behavior before, during and after his arrest by Depew police, a judge ordered a mental health evaluation. In the meantime, Metcalf, Jr. was taken to the Erie County Holding Center downtown.
His paranoia grew worse at the holding center, and Metcalf, Jr. began acting out, and resisting deputies’ commands.
Metcalf, Jr. was taken to ECMC to be evaluated after just a few hours of being at the holding center because, according to the state report, deputies had to use force to make him take a shower. That was the last time he would leave the holding center alive.
The commission’s report released Sept. 26 detailed extensive injuries to Metcalf Jr., including broken ribs, badly bruised face and body and organ failure. The commission’s forensic pathologist — who reanalyzed tissue samples taken during Metcalf’s autopsy — determined he died as a result of a homicide caused by traumatic asphyxia. In other words, he was beaten and strangled to death.
The report also showed EMTs who were called to the Erie County Holding Center to attend to Metcalf’s injuries, found a spit mask used by deputies tied so tightly around Metcalf’s neck, a finger couldn’t be inserted between the material and his skin, and they had to use scissors to remove it. By that time, he was already dead.
“Even though it’s been four years, it’s a nightmare,” Metcalf, Sr. said. “Even the good things don’t stay with you very long. But if you had things to do over again, I would have hugged him, I probably would have taken him home, just grabbed him, if I knew what was going to happen.”
Thomas Casey, an attorney for the Metcalf family, says he hopes the state report reverses what he says has been a four year cover-up.
“It is our wish and desire and hope that he will follow through with the recommendations, the very firm and strong recommendations that were made in this report, and commence a criminal investigation, and follow it through so that justice is done in this particular case,” he said.
Richard Metcalf Sr., believes he has a new mission in life. And he won’t quit until justice is served.
“I know that my son still needs me,” he said. “And I know if I don’t do whatever I can to bring those forward who did this to him, then what am I worth as a father? It’s what gets me up everyday. Everyday.”
The Erie County Sheriff’s Office denied the details in the report, saying Tuesday the commission “misinterpreted critical evidence.”
“The failure to accurately take account of that evidence led to flawed conclusions,” according to the sheriff’s office statement. “The Erie County Sheriff’s Office looks forward to defending itself and the actions of its deputies in court.”
Casey fired back: “There was an indication yesterday that the sheriff’s office is looking forward to their day in court,” he said. “Well guess what, so are we. And we will be prepared.”
The state report recommended acting Erie County DA Michael Flaherty conduct a full criminal investigation.
Flaherty, Casey and attorneys from Brown Chairi, the firm litigating the case, held a meeting Wednesday afternoon.
Casey said the meeting was “positive,” and that Flaherty told the room he will seriously consider the report to determine whether the re-open an investigation into the 2012 death.
Brown Chiari partner Don Brown said Wednesday he’s shocked by the flippant response by the sheriff’s office and the Erie County Executive’s Office, which also dismissed the Commission’s report.
“They should move forward by at least investigating and looking into the recommendations that were made, OK, without rejecting them out of hand as they have,” Brown said. “It’s kind of shocking that they would just say no, it’s horrendous. I mean, you have an opportunity now to find the truth.”
The county executive’s office said the medical examiner will not reverse its initial decision that Metcalf died from a heart attack caused by someone else because, “no new or additional information that was not available to the original certifier has been advanced,” according to a statement released Tuesday.