BUFFALO, N.Y. -- A report from the New York State Commission of Correction released Tuesday says the death of an inmate in 2012 was a homicide and the result of inappropriate actions taken by officers.
Richard Metcalf was originally arrested by Depew Police and was eventually taken to the Erie County Holding Center.
During a struggle with officers, Metcalf started to spit out blood.
The report says a sergeant "applied a dangerous and unauthorized restraint device (known as a spit mask) on Metcalf that ... caused (him) to have severely restricted breathing." The panel goes on to say that the spit mask was inappropriately applied around Metcalf's neck and "was tied so tight that (an EMT) had to use his scissors to cut the spit mask off."
Deputies also put a pillow case over Metcalf's head, which was a violation of Holding Center rules.
The report also alleges deputies wouldn't allow EMTs to assess Metcalf's head and his breathing while he was being restrained.
Metcalf was brain dead by the time he was transported to ECMC, and he was taken off life support two days later.
Metcalf's family has filed a lawsuit against the county. The victim's father previously told 2 On Your Side all the family wanted "was the truth of what happened that night when my son was murdered."
The report makes 8 recommendations for the Sheriff's Office, including several proposed policy changes as well as internal investigations into the deputies involved.
The report recommends the U.S. Justice Department open civil rights investigations into the deputies as well as the Sheriff's Office.
The report also asks Acting Erie County District Attorney Michael Flaherty to open a criminal investigation. Flaherty's predecessor, Frank Sedita, declined to prosecute the case due to a "lack of evidence."
In a statement to 2 On Your Side, Flaherty said his sympathies were with the Metcalf family and that he is "in the process of discussing with my colleagues our next course of action." He said it would be inappropriate to comment further.
The Erie County Sheriff's Office released the following statement:
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.