Former Rankin chief died of natural causes after being Tased, coroner says
The wife of a former Rankin police chief who died after a state trooper used a stun gun on him said Thursday she was relieved to learn the weapon played no role, based on a coroner's findings.
“I never thought anything was suspicious,” Maria Briston said after Washington County Coroner Tim Warco announced that a lengthy investigation determined Darryll Briston died of natural causes after an altercation at The Meadows Racetrack and Casino.
“I just wanted to make sure Darryll wasn't abused. I wanted to make sure he wasn't another Jonny Gammage,” referring to a black motorist who died in an altercation with white police officers during a 1995 traffic stop in Carrick.
Darryll Briston, 49, of Penn Hills on Dec. 15 punched a man who was talking to his wife inside the North Strabane casino and ran when confronted by Meadows security and state and local police, police said. After a quarter-mile chase, Briston tussled with officers. A trooper discharged a Taser on his leg for two seconds, police said.
Soon after, Briston reported trouble breathing. He went into cardiac arrest 24 minutes after his arrest, police said.
Warco's investigation revealed significant blockage of Briston's arteries.
“Scientifically, the Taser had nothing to do with the individual's death,” Warco said.
Maria Briston said her husband suffered from a heart condition and had gained a significant amount of weight but passed a physical for a fracking job just before he died. The American Heart Association last year published a study showing that electronic stun guns can cause cardiac arrest and death.
Nearly 540 people in the United States have died since 2001 after being shocked with police Tasers, according to Amnesty International and Electronic Village, a blog that tracks Taser-related deaths. Darryll Briston's death is not included in the tally.
“While Taser is pleased to see there is no causality in contributing to the death, there is always sadness that comes from a situation like this, and my heart goes out to the family,” Taser International Inc. spokesman Steve Tuttle said.
Briston served as a police officer in Rankin and Swissvale before becoming Rankin's chief. He was fired in 2003 and served three years in prison after being convicted of theft and obstruction of justice.
“My husband is laid to rest,” Maria Briston said, “and now he can rest in peace.”
District Attorney Gene Vittone said no charges will be filed.
Jason Cato is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7936 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Tiny black weevils booming in W.Pa.
- Homewood West woman charged after stabbing woman during card game
- Man fatally shot in East Liberty; police investigating 2nd shooting
- Independence Day festivities scheduled
- Fireworks displays costly, but W. Pa. communities feel obligated
- Public implored to avoid iPhone cases that resemble guns
- Tradition rules in Pittsburgh: Keep bridge color the same, poll finds
- Homestead Cemetery records will be preserved
- Newsmaker: Justin Meinert
- Pittsburgh a big draw for tourists on July 4th weekend
- Higher school taxes prevail in Western Pennsylvania, Trib finds