Kadner: Chainsaw attack ends a friendship
By Phil Kadner firstname.lastname@example.org August 23, 2013 4:56PM
Rhonda Smith covers her eyes as she listens to her husband Preston Smith answer question during a press conference at Advocate Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn, Friday, Aug. 23, 2013. Smith was detailing an incident when a friend attacked him with a chainsaw Wednesday. Smith underwent surgery to repair his badly injured left hand. His friend, Anthony Metcalf, has been charged with aggravated battery with a deadly weapon. | J.Geil/for Sun-Times Media
Updated: September 26, 2013 6:36AM
“What you got to say now?” were the only words a man wielding a chainsaw spoke as he allegedly thrust the device through a car window at his best friend.
It might have been a request to repay $30 that caused his friend of more than 40 years to come after him, theorized Preston Smith.
Smith, 55, admitted that his buddy Anthony Metcalf, 50, “was pretty well drunk” in the wee hours of Wednesday morning when Smith stopped by his house after work.
Reminder to self: Never ask a friend about an old debt when he’s stinking drunk.
A Chicago Streets and Sanitation Department driver, Smith said he went to his friend’s house in the 1000 block of West 103rd Street in the Washington Park community and had “a beer or two” in the back yard.
About 2 a.m., “we had some words, mainly about money he owed me,” Smith said during a news conference Friday at Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn, as he was being released.
“He kept getting all irate with me. Very belligerent. I said, ‘I’m going home,’ ” Smith said. “I got in my car and was trying to take out my keys to put it in the ignition, and he came at me with a chainsaw through the car window.”
That’s when Metcalf apparently uttered the infamous words, “What you got to say now?”
Smith is a soft-spoken man and still seemed befuddled by the events but grateful that he was alive.
“It was scary,” he said. “Very scary.”
Smith said he didn’t hear the chainsaw but first became aware that Metcalf was out for blood when the saw appeared through his open car window. Smith didn’t seem real clear on events after that, except “I was ducking for my life, trying to get away,” he said.
He pushed his car door open to knock Metcalf back.
Smith said Metcalf cut his car door at that point and sliced Smith’s left hand when he tried to ward off his attacker after exiting the vehicle.
Metcalf apparently kept swinging the chainsaw at Smith, who said “it was a miracle I didn’t lose my hand.”
Or his life.
He seemed almost as upset at the damage done to his car, however, as to his hand.
The chainsaw injured an artery and sliced tendons, nerve and muscle between Smith’s thumb and forefinger.
Dr. Gary Kronen, a hand surgeon at Christ, said two hours of microsurgery were required to repair the damage. But Kronen is hopeful that after occupational therapy, Smith may regain use of his hand in four months.
His prognosis is “good,” the doctor said, while refusing to say that Smith would be back to normal at that time.
Asked if he ever expected that sort of violent reaction from his longtime friend, Smith said, “Never. I couldn’t believe it.”
At first, Smith didn’t want to say how much money his friend owed him.
“It was miniscule,” he said. Asked if that discussion resulted in a fight, Smith said, “Not a fight. Just words.”
But Smith did add that his friend was so angry he was “spitting in my face” as they argued.
“It was stupid,” he said of the argument. “Minor.”
Smith said Metcalf’s brother ran out of the house, stopped the attack, wrapped Smith’s bleeding hand and took him to the hospital.
“He had lost a tremendous amount of blood, and there was considerable active bleeding,” Dr. James Doherty, medical director of trauma care and critical care at Christ, said in a statement. “Our efforts were immediately focused on controlling the blood, before surgery could be even considered.”
Rhonda Smith, Preston’s wife, was at the news conference and said she was shocked when she heard that Metcalf had attacked her husband.
Metcalf had often visited their house over the years, and the two friends had many arguments about “games, cars” and things like that but nothing violent, she said.
Rhonda said she called Metcalf’s mother “Mom” and that her husband was a pallbearer at Metcalf’s father’s funeral.
“Never would I have thought anybody would have done something like this,” she said.
Metcalf was charged with aggravated battery. A reporter asked Smith if he thought Metcalf should have been charged with attempted murder.
“I know it was an assault,” Smith said, with amazing understatement. “I don’t know if he was trying to kill me.”
When asked if he still considered Metcalf a friend, Smith seemed very sad when he replied, “No.”
“I forgive him,” he said. “But I will never forget.”
Smith, his left hand heavily bandaged, was still “hurting and in pain” as he spoke with reporters but said, “I feel very blessed I didn’t lose my hand.”
And he had enough self-awareness to say, “Christ Hospital did a very good job” and to send a special thank you to a nurse named Christine.
“She was very helpful and helped me get through some stuff,” Smith said.
I noted that we had all seen movies where people brandish chainsaws and wondered how the real thing compared with the Hollywood version.
“It was scary,” Smith said, repeating words he had used earlier in the interview. “Just scary.”
My overall impression is that Smith still can’t believe what happened to him and can’t understand why his friend came after him.
It was just an argument over $30.
“It was frightening,” Smith said. “I didn’t see it coming.”
What was he thinking at the time?
“Why me? I didn’t deserve that.”
But Smith was clear on one thing.
“The friendship is over with. I can’t be friends with somebody who tried to kill me.”
Sounds like good advice to live by.