Casino death due to natural causes, officials say

Former police chief died of natural causes and not Taser use

July 18, 2013
Washington County Coroner Tim Warco, left, and District Attorney Eugene Vittone release findings on the death of Darryll L. Briston during a news conference at the courthouse Thursday. Briston was involved in a December incident at The Meadows Racetrack & Casino and died after being restrained by police. - Jim McNutt / Observer-Reporter Order a Print

The former chief of an Allegheny County police department who died after being taken into police custody following an incident in December at The Meadows Racetrack & Casino died of natural causes.

Darryll L. Briston, 49, of North Braddock, had cardiovascular disease, announced Washington County Coroner Tim Warco and District Attorney Eugene Vittone during a news conference Thursday. Warco ruled he died of natural causes.

Briston, the former Rankin police chief, died after police arrested him and used a Taser on him.

Warco said Briston was at the casino about 10:30 p.m. Dec. 15 when he saw his ex-wife and her male companion. There was a confrontation with Briston punching the other man in the face.

Casino security called for assistance from state and North Strabane Township police. Warco said Briston took off, running about a quarter-mile before he was apprehended.

Briston resisted attempts to be taken into custody and was told by a police a Taser would be used if he failed to comply, Warco said. He continued to resist and a Taser was applied to his upper leg for two seconds, Warco said.

After he was taken into custody, Briston started to complain about the handcuffs being too tight.

“Then he started experiencing difficulty breathing,” Warco said. “Police immediately called Canonsburg Ambulance, who arrived and started treatment. He went into cardiac arrest and was taken to Canonsburg General Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.”

Warco said just 24 minutes lapsed between the initial call at the casino and Briston’s death.

Vittone said his office wanted to investigate the incident, from interviewing witnesses to reviewing 911 tapes as well as the postmortem report.

The Taser played no role in his death, Warco said. Vittone said the Taser, which was applied by a trooper assigned to the casino, was used in accordance with state police policies and procedures.

Kathie O. Warco has covered the police beat and transportation for the Observer-Reporter for more than 25 years. She graduated from Duquesne University with a degree in journalism.

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