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Erie County deputies will not face charges in controversial Metcalf death

Cattaraugus DA rules against criminality
Posted at 12:02 PM, Dec 15, 2017
and last updated 2017-12-15 18:31:12-05

What happened to Richard Metcalf five ago in the Erie County Holding Center was gruesome, controversial, and his family thought, a crime.

But Cattaraugus County District Attorney Lori Pettit Reiman, brought in to investigate the Metcalf case because of a conflict of interest at the Erie County DA’s office, said Friday there is "insufficient proof" to charge anyone involved -- even though she called the death "horrible" and "completely preventable."

“The family is certainly disappointed that these individuals will not be held accountable criminally,” said attorney Mike Scinta of the Brown Chiari law firm. “We're disappointed in the investigation that took place and disappointed in the ultimate decision that the district attorney made.”

Metcalf had never been diagnosed with a mental illness before that cold November night, when he left his apartment barefoot and walked through the snow before breaking into a nearby business. 

Police used a Taser on Metcalf twice and took him to the Depew police station before transferring him to the Erie County Holding Center, where he died under mysterious circumstances.

“What we know is that he didn't receive any interventions from the facility relative to his mental health and the problems he was having while he was there, nor did they have the proper training for any of the deputies,” Scinta said. 

Video shows first responders taking an unconscious Metcalf out of the county jail on Nov. 28, 2012.

State investigators found deputies had tied a spit mask around Metcalf's neck, put a pillowcase over his head and prevented emergency medical technicians from properly evaluating Metcalf when they arrived.

In a prepared statement, Rieman wrote, "I hope what happened to Mr. Metcalf will prompt serious changes at the holding center." 

Sheriff Timothy Howard has disputed the idea his deputies were at fault and declined to comment Friday on the latest ruling.

While there won't be any criminal charges, the Metcalf family will continue to move forward with a civil suit against the county.