Washington County DA 'not going to prejudge' ex-police chief case
Washington County District Attorney Gene Vittone said Monday he is waiting for state police to complete their investigation into the death of former Rankin police Chief Darryll Briston before he reviews the case.
“I'm not going to prejudge anything,” Vittone said.
A trooper used a Taser on Briston, 49, of North Braddock before he died Saturday night at Canonsburg General Hospital. Police who arrested Briston said he punched the male companion of his estranged wife inside the Meadows Racetrack & Casino and ran. Police and security chased him and, when he refused to show his hands to be cuffed, the trooper “drive stunned” the Taser into Briston's upper right leg for two seconds.
Police said the drive stun feature administers a localized shock — different than a typical Taser shock that overrides the body's central nervous system.
“We believe that Taser technology protects life and if called upon we are prepared to help the investigation of this unfortunate incident,” Steve Tuttle, vice president of communications for Taser International, wrote in an email.
Washington County Coroner Timothy Warco did not rule on the cause and manner of death pending the outcome of the investigation.
State police spokesman Trooper Adam Reed would not provide a copy of the agency's policy on stun guns but said they are appropriate for use in an arrest when someone is resisting.
“A big part of it is taking into account the totality of the circumstances, if it's preventing a crime or preventing a suicide, or if someone is taking an aggressive stance,” Reed said.
University of Pittsburgh law professor David Harris served on a task force convened by Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen A. Zappala Jr. that in 2009 concluded Tasers are useful and largely safe weapons for police if they have been adequately trained and provided clear guidelines on when to use them.
“It's hard to know (if the usage was appropriate) without more information,” Harris said. “My first take is that they used less force than they might have.”
Zappala assembled the task force upon the death of Andre Thomas, 37, on Aug. 5, 2008. Thomas died about an hour after Swissvale police officers used Tasers on him. Medical Examiner Dr. Karl Williams ruled that Thomas died of “agitated delirium” and that the Taser did not contribute to his death.
Bobby Kerlik is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7886 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.