Holding Center death was homicide caused by deputies, report finds

Oct 19, 2016

The local lawyer representing the family of a man who died in the Erie County Holding Center is praising the work of the New York State Commission of Correction. The commission issued its final report in the 2012 death of 35-year-old Robert Metcalf, finding it a homicide caused by improper restraint used by Erie County deputies.

Richard Metcalf was brain dead when he arrived at Erie County Medical Center from the downtown Holding Center in November 2012. He had been arrested by Depew Police for bizarre behavior in Lancaster, which continued in the Holding Center.

Metcalf family lawyer Jim Brown says the 25-page state report saying it was a homicide is correct.

"The findings by the Commission on Corrections which, by the way, was a tremendous job by that agency, that they would actually have the courage to publish the report condemning the Holding Center and the people involved in Richard's death," said Brown. "It's reassuring."

Brown said the body showed signs of massive physical abuse.

"The abuse he had to endure was extraordinary. His body is covered from head to toe, down to his feet, bruises and cuts," said Brown. "He was no doubt in cardiac arrest while he was in the Holding Center....It's a very stressful thing to look at when you see what's happened to this man's body before he was asphyxiated."

Brown said the case may go to court in April 2017.

In a statement, the Erie County Sheriff's Department said:

"This matter is currently the subject of litigation and therefore the Erie County Sheriff’s Office cannot comment in detail on the New York State Commission on Corrections’ (COC) report except to say that it has reviewed the report and disputes many of its purported findings. In preparing the report, we believe the COC mischaracterized and misinterpreted critical evidence, and the failure to accurately take account of that evidence led to flawed conclusions.  The Erie County Sheriff’s Office looks forward to defending itself and the actions of its deputies in court."