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The guardrail and concrete bridge foundation along State Route 134 in Marion County, Tenn., on Jan. 11, 2017, show damage from a crash involving William John Berner's pickup truck after an encounter sheriff's deputies escalated to gunfire on Dec. 27, 2016.

This story was corrected Jan. 17 at 6:50 p.m. to take out the phrase, "whether they were responsible for his death," at the end of the seventh paragraph.

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Tennessee Bureau of Investigation spokeswoman Susan Niland

Investigators say it could take several weeks before an autopsy reveals how a Whiteside, Tenn., man died during a Dec. 27 run-in with Marion County Sheriff's Office deputies.

"We are still awaiting the final results from the medical examiner," Tennessee Bureau of Investigation spokeswoman Susan Niland said Tuesday. "Those results could take up to several weeks to complete. That examination will also determine the cause and manner of death."

The deadly incident began as a "drunk and disorderly" call that devolved into a confrontation between the deputies and 59-year-old William John Berner on Parker Lane in Whiteside, Marion County Sheriff's Office Detective Gene Hargis said during the initial investigation.

Authorities said Berner drove his Ford F-350 pickup truck toward deputies and they fired at Berner as he sped toward them.

Hargis said the three deputies were out of their patrol vehicles. They jumped in their cars and started after the pickup, but Berner had already crashed when they caught up to him a short distance down the road at a railroad overpass bridge. Berner was pronounced dead at the scene, officials said.

The railroad overpass also crosses over Interstate 24, where the tiny community of Whiteside is crowded between the south slopes of Aetna Mountain and the interstate.

Twelfth Judicial District Attorney General Mike Taylor said this week the autopsy results should also show whether shots fired by the three deputies actually struck Berner.

According to his obituary information, Berner owned and operated Lookout Valley Equipment in Chattanooga.

Contact staff writer Ben Benton at bbenton@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6569.

 

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