Behavior of East Pittsburgh man who died in police custody atypical, sister says
A man who died in police custody had mental problems but wasn't known to be violent, his sister said on Thursday.
Gary Beto, 52, of East Pittsburgh died in Forbes Regional Hospital at 11:12 p.m. Tuesday, about 90 minutes after East Pittsburgh police arrested him for trying to force his way into a home on Ridge Avenue.
Susan Kernick, Beto's sister, said she took him to Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic in Oakland on Friday. He left after they waited more than two hours, Kernick said.
“He was talking about how people were after him and were trying to hurt him,” said Kernick, 57, of Penn Hills. “We couldn't make sense of it. We tried to get him help.”
UPMC spokeswoman Gloria Kreps declined to comment.
David DiNinno, 32, said he had never seen Beto before the man was at his door trying to get in and screaming that his brother was inside. He described him as “out of it,” and said Beto ran away when he said he was calling 911.
“Gary was not a violent kid,” Kernick said. “He didn't go in there to hurt someone. He was confused. We really don't know what was going on in his head.”
Four police departments, including East Pittsburgh, responded. Police used pepper spray and a Taser to subdue Beto, Allegheny County police said.
“It doesn't make sense to me you would need all these policemen to subdue one person,” Kernick said.
East Pittsburgh police said Beto refused to stop and tried to elbow an officer who attempted to handcuff him. Once the cuffs were on, police noticed Beto was unresponsive and had a faint pulse. Officers removed the handcuffs and performed CPR until paramedics arrived, police said.
Allegheny County police have said investigators are trying to determine whether drugs contributed to Beto's behavior.
Kernick said Beto has used drugs. The Medical Examiner's Office said investigators would await results of toxicology and other tests to determine what caused Beto's death.
Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen A. Zappala Jr. said Thursday that he's waiting for toxicology reports.
“I'll talk to Dr. (Karl) Williams about it,” Zappala said of the medical examiner. “We have a working group exploring (Taser use). It's after the fact, but it's another opportunity to review how we do business.”
Zappala formed a task force to study the use of Tasers by law enforcement in response to the death of Andre Thomas, 37, on Aug. 5, 2008. Thomas died about an hour after Swissvale police officers used Tasers on him. Williams ruled that Thomas died of “agitated delirium” and the Taser did not contribute to his death. A small amount of cocaine caused a delirious state and triggered a fatal heart attack, Williams said.
The task force found Tasers useful and largely safe, but only with adequate training and clear guidelines.
Kernick said Beto recently moved to East Pittsburgh from Squirrel Hill and was struggling with delusions.
“We were trying to make sense of it,” she said. “He really is someone who fell through the cracks.”
Staff writer Bobby Kerlik contributed to this report. Margaret Harding is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-380-8519 or email@example.com.
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.
- U.S. Steel to relocate corporate headquarters on former Civic Arena site
- Allegheny judge Woodruff, ex-Steelers corner, to run for Pa. Supreme Court
- Allegheny County will stop asking about employees’ criminal history, executive says
- Iraqi family, torn apart for opposing Saddam, reunites in Pittsburgh
- Stores creating Thanksgiving dine-and-dash dilemma
- Police investigating fire at South Side self storage units
- Horse racing industry banks on Wolf
- Savings, aesthetics of LED praised, but streetlight conversion could cost Pittsburgh $13M
- Allegheny County adoption event joins 40 children with families
- Cybersecurity experts warn Pittsburgh conference about dangers of hacking
- Time capsule salutes 250 years for Fort Pitt Block House