Coroner: Death in custody from natural causes, not trauma

Harrisburg

HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) – The death of Harrisburg man while in Dauphin County Prison was not caused by trauma, the coroner said Thursday.

Dauphin County Coroner Graham Hetrick said 21-year-old Ty’rique Riley died of natural causes, specifically a brain infection that caused swelling. He said the infection may have altered Riley’s behavior and may have caused kidney failure.

Hetrick said lacerations and deep bruises to Riley’s body did not contribute to his death. Bruises to Riley’s chest, he said, is consistent with CPR.

Riley’s family and their lawyer believe he was severely beaten while in custody and that led to his death on July 1. They say Riley was healthy before going to prison and had several bruises, broken teeth, and failing kidneys after his death.

Dauphin County District Attorney Fran Chardo has said the 21-year-old was arrested June 18 for assaulting his father with a sledgehammer. Because Riley was combative and seemed to have a mental health issue, he was placed on suicide watch.

About a week later, on June 26, it was determined Riley needed to be evaluated at an outside hospital. When prison staff tried to get him out of his clothes, he became combative and was put into a restraint chair, then became unresponsive, Chardo said.

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