Former Rankin police chief died of natural causes, officials say


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A former Rankin police chief died of natural causes in December after a police chase in Washington County that included the use of a Taser, officials said Thursday.

Darryll L. Briston, 49, died of a cardiovascular disease and a congenital heart disorder that caused significant blockage to his coronary arteries, Washington County Coroner Timothy Warco said at a news conference at the Washington County Courthouse.

Police reports indicate that Briston got into a physical altercation Dec. 15 with his estranged wife's male companion and punched the man in the face at the Meadows Racetrack and Casino in North Strabane.

Briston left and fled from police, who chased him for about a quarter-mile and used a Taser on him, before he was taken into custody, complaining of shortness of breath, authorities said.

He died at Canonsburg General Hospital a short time later.

But Briston's widow, Maria Briston, 45, of Penn Hills described a different set of events before her husband's death.

Reached by phone, Ms. Briston said she was at the Meadows with her husband and 88-year-old mother, Winifred McDaniel, where she was approached by a former high school classmate, not a male companion.

She said Briston, who was known for being jealous, threw a punch in the direction of the man but barely grazed him. Ms. Briston was adamant that the couple were not estranged and lived together in Penn Hills.

After the incident, Ms. Briston said she saw her husband leave the casino. She followed and saw what she called "suits and ties" running but did not see her husband.

About 4 a.m., she said, troopers came to her door and told her that her husband had complained that he had difficulty breathing and chest pains after he was apprehended and that ultimately led to a heart attack.

Ms. Briston said she didn't find out that a Taser had been used until the next morning on the news.

Ms. Briston said she was aware of her husband's health problems and thought it was possible the strenuous activity could have killed him.

"I knew he wasn't in the best of shape," Ms. Briston said. "I know he's gone, but he is still my husband."

At the news conference, Washington County District Attorney Eugene Vittone said data drawn from the Taser confirmed that Briston was shocked in the leg for 2 seconds after he failed to comply with police orders.

Mr. Warco said he had "no objective scientific medical data to indicate the application of the stun gun for a few seconds could have contributed to his death."

Mr. Vittone said officers followed the proper procedures during the incident and the investigation is closed.

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Kelton Brooks: kbrooks@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1601. First Published July 18, 2013 2:45 PM


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