Flanders man dies in Suffolk County jail

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A Flanders man being held on gun charges has died while in custody at the Suffolk County jail in Riverhead, a spokesman for the Suffolk Sheriff's Office said.

The inmate, identified by officials as Joseph Smith, 49, died at 12:56 p.m. Sunday.

A cause of death has not been determined, officials said, pending a ruling by the Suffolk medical examiner.

Sheriff's Chief of Staff Michael Sharkey said any in-custody death is also investigated by the Sheriff's Office and the New York State Commission of Correction.

He said that, although it was unclear how Smith died, there was no reason to suspect foul play.

"Absolutely not," Sharkey said. "There were absolutely no unusual incidents surrounding this at all -- other than the fact that he died."

It was not clear whether Smith died at the jail or died after being taken to Peconic Bay Medical Center in Riverhead.

Smith had been remanded to the jail in lieu of $75,000 bail after his arraignment two weeks ago in Riverhead Town Justice Court.

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Smith had been arrested on Sept. 12 after, police said, he was involved in an altercation on Lincoln Street in Riverhead.

Authorities said he fired a .32-caliber pistol at a man identified by police as William Kowalski, 27, of Riverhead.

Kowalski was not struck, police said.

Smith was later arrested at his home and charged with second-degree criminal possession of a weapon, first-degree reckless endangerment and second-degree menacing.

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