Toxicology test pending on man who died in East Pittsburgh police custody

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In the hours before Gary Beto died in East Pittsburgh police custody, he encountered officers from another department and attempted to force his way into a man's home, police said.

Allegheny County officials said Wednesday they were waiting for the results of toxicology tests before ruling on what caused the death of Mr. Beto, 32, who had recently moved from Squirrel Hill to East Pittsburgh.

Police arrested Mr. Beto Tuesday night after they received a report that he tried to force his way into a home on Ridge Avenue about 9:50 p.m. He died at Forbes Regional Hospital about an hour and a half later.

David DiNinno, 32, said he noticed Mr. Beto pacing around his car earlier that night but didn't think much of it.

Then, when Mr. DiNinno's three children were sleeping inside the family home, Mr. DiNinno said his wife heard a noise and he opened the door and spotted Mr. Beto, who had opened the screen door and was trying to force his way inside, saying he was trying to find his brother.

"I had never seen him before in my life," Mr. DiNinno said.

He said Mr. Beto was carrying a metal object that looked like a cane and struck him in the shoulder.

Mr. DiNinno said he was going to call the police and Mr. Beto ran off. Mr. DiNinno chased Mr. Beto while his wife called 911.

East Pittsburgh police, who are stationed close by, arrived in about a minute and Mr. DiNinno waved them down. Mr. Beto continued running.

"That's when I lost sight of him," Mr. DiNinno said.

Two East Pittsburgh police officers chased Mr. Beto about two blocks, to South Avenue, and ordered him to put his hands behind his back.

"They approached this man, but he refused to comply with their requests and refused to be taken into custody, attempting to assault one of the officers," Allegheny County homicide Lt. Andrew Schurman said in a news release. "The officers had to use several different forms of less [than] lethal force to take the man into custody."

East Pittsburgh police said their officers used pepper spray -- which struck one of the officers -- after Mr. Beto almost elbowed one of their officers in the face. They did not say what tactics officers from other departments that provided additional assistance might have used on Mr. Beto, and Lt. Schurman did not respond to a request for comment.

A short while after officers handcuffed Mr. Beto, they noticed that he lost consciousness and began performing CPR until medics arrived, East Pittsburgh police said.

Mr. Beto's brother-in-law referred comment to his wife, who did not respond to a message Wednesday night.

Lt. Schurman said county police are asking anyone who might have seen or heard any of the events to call the homicide unit at 412-473-1300.

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Liz Navratil:, 412-263-1438 or on Twitter @LizNavratil. First Published September 4, 2013 8:00 AM


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