Grant calls on Sheriff Howard to answer questions at a Legislature hearing

County Legislator Betty Jean Grant has sponsored a resolution compelling the appearance of Erie County Sheriff Timothy Howard, following his appearance at what many activists called a “Klan-style” rally where prominent White supremacists were in attendance for the purpose of recruitment.  That event was premised as a “Spirit of America” rally and organized by Carl Paladino.

Horace Scott Lacy was prominently in attendance.  Lacy admitted to dropping neo-Nazi leaflets in Lewiston last week, reportedly distributing them house to house in groups of four. The Public reports that Lacy is actively recruiting for his group, the Aryan Renaissance Society, in Niagara Falls. Three large highly visible oversized Confederate Flags were also present.

“What Buffalo and Erie County witnessed in Niagara Square was absolutely not an event Sheriff Howard should have been headlining or participating in, especially while in uniform.  Sheriff Howard directly inserted himself into a polarizing political event, and he should have left when he spotted the confederate flag proudly being waved,” Grant said in a press statement.

Grant’s resolution repudiates the actions of the Sheriff and calls upon the Legislature to require Howard to appear at a hearing of the Legislature’s Public Safety Committee.

“What he does on his time is his business but taxpayers, including African American citizens whose relatives were hanged under that flag and Jews who were persecuted by groups who supported the racist literature distributed there, should expect their duly elected sheriff to refrain from subjecting our taxpayers’ uniform to be violated by anyone who has sworn to represent all of Erie County’s citizens,” she explained on social media.

It’s unclear whether Howard will be asked about the county holding center’s shocking rates of alleged suicide.  In two high profile cases — Richard Metcalf and India Cummings — it appears that the inmates were beaten to death by Sheriff’s Deputies, who then lied to cover up the murders.

The case of India Cummings

India Cummings, in the throes of mental illness, clearly incapacitated and incapable of taking care of herself, was put in custody at the Erie County Holding Center on February 1st, 2016 after a series of irrational actions. She had originally called the police for help. 

Despite frantic efforts by family members and others to have her transferred to a hospital where she can be stabilized, she was stashed away mysteriously in the Holding Center for a two and a half week period. On February 17, 2016, Erie County Sheriff Timothy Howard states a “medical event happened,” and India was transported to Buffalo General Hospital.

10329274_1053482491375269_4639661444975309457_nUpon her admission, she had a broken arm, broken ribs, severe dehydration, a blood clot in her leg that would have required the amputation of her leg, and her kidneys were failing. She was brain dead and in cardiac arrest. Sheriff Howard fails to mention what conceivable medical event occurred that could have caused all those conditions simultaneously.

On February 21, 2016, Ms. Cummings remaining organs crashed, and she died.

“Howard and Acting Erie County District Attorney Mike Flaherty have done exactly what you would expect them to do when a young Black girl dies in such a tragic and suspicious manner in county care… absolutely nothing,” Matt Albert, an attorney for Cummings’ family, wrote in an editorial at the time.

“India was the victim of a homicide. When a clearly incapacitated individual is put into County custody, it is the County’s duty to care for her, as she cannot care for herself. Here, best case scenario, under County supervision, she was allowed to wither away and die in a two and a half week period, having nothing in her system upon her admission to the hospital. That conduct constitutes criminally negligent homicide,” Albert explains.

Worst case scenario, she was beaten until there was nothing left and deprived of necessary food and water. That would be intentional or depraved indifference murder.

Howard publicly stated that he is “more than satisfied” as to the care India received.

The case of Richard Metcalf

The family of 35-year-old Richard Metcalf died after being held briefly at the Erie County Holding Center. His family has commenced a wrongful death lawsuit against the county, the Sheriff’s Department, and several deputies, but now the state Commission of Corrections has issued a report that the inmate’s death “was a Homicide caused by the restraint methods” used by deputies.

The state agency’s Medical Review Board rejected the conclusion of the Erie County medical examiner that Richard Metcalf died “from Acute and Sub-Acute Myocardial Infarction,” or heart attack, on Nov. 30, 2012 at the Erie County Medical Center.

The Medical Review Board wrote in its final report that the “restraint episode, pictures of a spit mask tied in ligature fashion around Metcalf’s neck, a pillow case over Metcalf’s head, blood in Metcalf’s airways, and the transport of Metcalf in a prone position on the ambulance gurney are evidence of the classic elements of a death that was caused directly by traumatic asphyxia with the compression of the torso and neck,” rejecting the heart attack conclusion. According to the report, Metcalf had no history of heart problems.

metcalf-before-and-after

The board said that Metcalf was hospitalized after a “prolonged use of force and an improper restraint” by deputies while held at the Holding Center, a facility that has come under attack over the years from state and federal regulators for its high suicide rate and conditions of confinement.  As a result of a 2011 agreement resulting in the dismissal of a federal lawsuit against the county concerning conditions at the jail, the county agreed to regular inspections by federal monitors.

While the county medical examiner’s original finding that Metcalf’s death was a homicide attributable to three causes:  a heart attack, liver disease, and multiple blunt-force injuries, the new report urges the Erie County district attorney to take notice of the Medical Review Board’s findings that the newly released evidence “that supports that Metcalf’s cause of death was a homicide due to traumatic asphyxia, and initiate a criminal investigation into the matter.”

While there was an initial investigation by the State Police into Metcalf’s death, requested by then District Atty. Frank Sedita, no charges were ever filed and a grand jury was not convened to review the case.

When contacted about the findings of the state’s Medical Review Board, Acting DA Michael Flaherty said “it would be inappropriate to comment on the prosecution. I will speak to my colleagues to determine the most appropriate course of action.”

Among other recommendations by the Medical Review Board include:

– lawmakers appoint a physician to the jail

– the assistant attorney general for civil rights take notice of the findings and initiate both individual criminal civil rights investigations and an investigation into the Sheriff Dept.’s confinement and treatment of Metcalf

– the sheriff develop crisis intervention training for deputies to identify and safely manage inmates with mental illness who are in a crisis state

The Medical Review Board said in its report that “had Metcalf received appropriate crisis level mental health care for his acute psychosis with proper restraint methods and pharmacologic interventions, and had been the subject of a properly supervised use of force, his death could have been prevented.”

The Medical Review Board said in its report that “had Metcalf received appropriate crisis level mental health care for his acute psychosis with proper restraint methods and pharmacologic interventions, and had been the subject of a properly supervised use of force, his death could have been prevented.”

The State Police investigation had found that Metcalf’s family and friends reported that he displayed increasingly bizarre and erratic behavior before his arrest and struggled with the arresting Depew officers. Metcalf was noted to have a paranoid thought process and believed there were people following him.

Metcalf was originally arrested by Depew police on burglary charges on Nov. 27 before being brought to the Holding Center.

Tony Farina and Austin Harig contributed to this report. 

 

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One thought on “Grant calls on Sheriff Howard to answer questions at a Legislature hearing

  1. Thank you to Betty Jean Grant for standing up against those who would cheer on while white supremacists leech out of the their far too many reeking holes that they appropriately found their awful selves in, until these days when an actual elected official would participate in an event with them – and the elected official unbelievably showing up in his full official Sheriff’ uniform. WOW!

    Just as important, Sheriff Howard should not need a resolution to compel him to appear at the county legislature over this matter, nor should he need a subpoena, if he is so tough and strong as he likes people to believe then he should show up on his own accord and take the heat.

    Like

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