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Two recent deaths at Holding Center trigger protest

A Buffalo advocacy group plans to lodge a formal complaint with the state Commission of Correction about the recent deaths of a man and a woman in the Erie County Holding Center.

The deaths triggered a protest Wednesday afternoon in front of the jail and Erie County Sheriff’s Office at 20 Delaware Ave.

The victims were identified as Rosie Mendez, 26, a Buffalo drug suspect who reportedly hanged herself while undergoing detoxification last month, and David C. Liddick, 41, who died over the weekend.

County officials on Thursday said that both deaths were reported to the Commission of Correction.

Scott Zylka, spokesman for the Erie County Sheriff’s Office, declined to comment on the two cases.

Charles Culhane, a board member of the Western New York Peace Center, said both deaths are suspicious and the Commission of Correction needs to look into them. Culhane, a Buffalo-area paralegal, who led the protest of a handful of people, said the complaint will be filed with the state by the middle of next week at the latest.

Culhane was with a Buffalo woman who said she had just been released from the holding center on bail. Mendez died an agonizing death in lockup on Aug. 24, Culhane said. The former prisoner, who spoke on only on the condition of anonymity, offered details.

Mendez had been “screaming and pleading” for help as she underwent detoxification, the woman said.

“They just ignored her,”said the woman, who said Mendez hung herself.

Culhane said Liddick, Cheektowaga, who had a history of arrests, died Saturday. County officials on Thursday said that he died as a result of a medical condition.

“Initially they told me he died of a heart attack and then I was told he probably died of a perforated gland,” Culhane said.

Last May, the family of the late Richard Metcalf Jr. of Depew filed a State Supreme Court wrongful death suit against Erie County, the Sheriff’s Office and nine Holding Center deputies over the Nov. 30, 2012 death of Metcalf, 35, three days after he was arrested in Depew after allegedly breaking into business on Columbia Avenue.

According to reports, officers used stun guns on Metcalf, who was beaten by holding center deputies and also denied initial medical care. He died in Erie County Medical Center on Nov. 30, 2012.

The Erie County Medical Examiner’s office attributed Metcalf’s death to “acute and subacute myocardial infarction” (a heart attack), and “congenital biliary atresia (a liver disease) with cirrhosis of the liver and portal hypertension” and “multiple blunt force injuries with associated stress.”

Metcalf was accused by authorities of having acted peculiarly after he was taken into custody.