Affectionately called "the walker" for his long rambles through the Washington Grove neighborhood where he was raised and where he lived with his 80-year-old mother, Eric Wolle was well-known for the conversations he had with himself.
On the afternoon of April 27, they had an unusually unpleasant tone, neighbors and family members recalled.
Neighbors took notice when they saw Wolle, a diagnosed bipolar schizophrenic, arguing vigorously with "voices" no one else could hear. Normally, he listened calmly.
When Montgomery County police arrived about 9:30 that night, Wolle, 45, had descended into his deepest fears, recalled his older brother, Eduardo Wolle. Long paranoid that the CIA and FBI wanted to take him away, he believed that the police had come to kill him.
Within an hour, Wolle was dead. His 6-foot-4, 275-pound frame had been subdued by seven police officers and two blasts from electric stun devices called Tasers. A Montgomery County grand jury on Thursday cleared the officers of criminal wrongdoing in Wolle's death. His brother describes the death as "the third time we lost him."
The first time was nearly 20 years ago, when Eric Wolle's mental illness was diagnosed. After that, his brother said, he "just lay down for a year." Then his condition improved.
The second time the family lost him was in 1993, when he had another episode and attacked his father, Frank Wolle, who obtained a restraining order against him.
It was the only time police were dispatched to the Wolle house, police said, until the night of Eric Wolle's death.
Since attacking his father, Wolle had received little treatment, his brother said. He lived with his mother, Dolores Wolle. He did not work. He wrote letters to the ACLU and the Republican National Committee, saying the police were coming to get him.
The terror that apparently had been haunting Wolle the day he died escalated when a car carrying Chinese delivery food parked in front of the Wolle house, in the 400 block of Washington Grove Lane, just before 9 that night.
The driver left the headlights on and ran next door to deliver food. Family members said Wolle apparently believed the car carried agents coming to take him away. He pushed his mother and ran out of the house.
"He was very upset, and I felt it was best to leave the house," Dolores Wolle said. "It was best not to ask him any questions."
She ran next door and told the neighbors, who called police.
When officers arrived, Wolle had a machete in his belt -- a gift he had received when he was a boy -- and was screaming that the police would never take him alive.
Following police procedure in a threatening situation, the officers who initially responded called for backup. Police cars descended on the neighborhood, and neighbors heard officers' voices on loudspeakers. They heard shouting and a strange, keening voice.
"I heard what I thought was an animal screaming," said Tom Kaufman, 38, who lives several doors down.
Police ordered Wolle to drop to the ground, but he did not, police said. One officer, trained in dealing with the mentally ill, discharged a Taser to subdue Wolle. It had no effect. Police ordered Wolle down again. They fired another Taser.
He dropped to the ground, but when officers moved toward him, Wolle fought and wrestled with them before losing consciousness. Officers and rescue personnel tried to resuscitate him, but he was later pronounced dead at a hospital.
A preliminary autopsy report found that he had died of cardiac arrhythmia in a setting of acute psychosis, according to several people who have seen the report. His blood alcohol content was 0.18; the legal limit for driving is 0.08. The autopsy found that the Taser did not contribute to Wolle's death, police said.
"We extend our sincere condolences to the family of Eric Wolle," Montgomery Police Chief J. Thomas Manger said in a statement released after the grand jury ruling. "This has been a difficult time for everyone involved."
Wolle's mother has written to police to ask that officers be better trained to handle the mentally ill. She said police have not responded. Capt. John Fitzgerald, a police spokesman, said two of the seven officers who responded had been trained to deal with the mentally ill. Capt. Nancy Demme, head of the major crimes unit, said the officers "did a very good job under very volatile circumstances."
Dolores Wolle said: "I am not asking for punishment for anyone. All I ask is that officers be prepared or trained in dealing with mentally disabled people."
Wolle graduated from Gaithersburg High School in 1976, played the trumpet and wanted to be a physicist, family members said. He attended the State University of New York at Stony Brook on Long Island until he was afflicted with mental illness.
He was married for a few years. He was intelligent, family members said. For years, Eduardo Wolle said, his younger brother seemed to hold great promise.
"But the third time we lost him, we lost him forever," he said.