Car, gun used to stop family
- Holly M. Gill
- Madras Pioneer - Sports
Man sentenced for coercion
Surrounded by family and supporters, former Madras resident Robert Metcalf, 45, was sentenced Sept. 14 for a "road rage" incident in 2008.
Circuit Court Judge Gary Williams sentenced Metcalf to 270 days in the Jefferson County Correctional Facility for using his car to force another vehicle to stop, and then displaying a Ruger 9mm pistol to keep the vehicle's five occupants in the vehicle.
Following lengthy negotiations, Metcalf entered an Alford plea Aug. 18 to five counts of coercion -- Class C felonies. In an Alford plea, a defendant enters a guilty plea after negotiations, but still maintains his or her innocence.
When the strange incident began on Sept. 6, 2008, Metcalf was northbound on U.S. Highway 97 at around 7 a.m., returning home from Bend after delivering newspapers. His son, Jonathan, now 21, had just gotten off the graveyard shift at a Redmond supermarket, and had agreed to follow him home in a separate vehicle.
Although he didn't realize it at the time, Robert Metcalf said he was "in a full state of paranoid delusion," and thought that he was working with police on a sting operation against a Mexican drug ring.
He had contacted the Madras Police Department the previous day, and told an officer and his family that he was being followed by a white truck, and believed he was going to be killed.
As his son followed him home, both traveling about 40 mph, a white Chevy Tahoe attempted to pass both vehicles. Before the vehicle could pass his vehicle, Metcalf, driving a Chevrolet Cavalier, swerved into the southbound lane, and blocked the Tahoe. In the meantime, Jonathan Metcalf, who believed his father's fear was coming true, called 911, and pulled in behind the Tahoe.
In the police report, the driver of the Tahoe, Kevin Williams, said he was boxed in by the other two vehicles, as Robert Metcalf got out of his vehicle and approached Williams with a loaded gun in his hand.
With the pistol pointed at Williams, Metcalf accused Williams of harassing him all night, and said he was going to make a citizen's arrest.
Williams, who was traveling with his wife, two daughters and another girl to a sporting event on the Oregon Coast, pulled over to the side of the road, as directed, but refused to turn over his driver's license. His daughter called 911 on her cell phone.
The Williams awaited police, while the Metcalfs returned to their home in Madras. A state police officer, who had a license plate number and description of Metcalf, went to his home at 2:38 p.m. and interviewed and arrested Robert Metcalf.
Prosecutor Sheryl Blackman, of the Jefferson County District Attorney's office, said that it was evident that the family, "dressed in sporting attire," were not members of the Mexican mafia.
"I can't adequately express how terrifying it was for them," Blackman told Judge Williams, who is not related to the victims. The Williams family did not attend the sentencing.
The trial was postponed numerous times over the three years. "They're just really frustrated about how long it's taken to get to this point," she said.
Metcalf told the judge that he has undergone extensive counseling, which helped him recover from "a debilitating state of psychosis," that he later learned was likely a result of a drug he had been taking to help him quit smoking.
Although he only took the drug -- Chantix -- for a couple months, beginning in May 2008, the warning label now states, "Some people have had changes in behavior, hostility, agitation, depressed mood, suicidal thoughts or actions," and that some people develop the symptoms "after several weeks of treatment or after stopping Chantix."
Metcalf said he has "no true recollection" of the time period from May 2008 until January 2009, and has apologized to the victims.
"Yes, I'm extremely sorry for what happened that day," he said. "I'm mortified that I pulled a 9 mm on that family."
Judge Williams acknowledged Metcalf's supporters, some of whom had submitted letters on Metcalf's behalf or attended the sentencing, but said he was "not inclined to allow witnesses to come up," since the sentence had already been negotiated.
"If this was a Chantix-induced psychosis, then you've learned some lessons," said Williams. "I think this is a good resolution of this case."
Williams sentenced Metcalf to nine months in jail, with credit for time served, and five years of supervised probation.
Contacted after the sentencing, Jonathan Metcalf said that his father served in the U.S. Army from 1983-88 as a ranger with the 101st Airborne Division, and was recently accepted for treatment by the Veterans Administration, which has noted that veterans with post-traumatic stress syndrome may be at increased risk from the medication.
Before his father began taking the medication, Metcalf said his father had been involved in youth ministries for 13 years, had coached basketball, and was working two jobs -- Bright Wood and a newspaper route.
"When he started taking the medication, everything went downhill from there," Jonathan Metcalf said.