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Nassau police custody death being reviewed by AG, officials say

The state attorney general is reviewing the circumstances of a Brooklyn man’s death in the custody of Nassau County police, officials said Thursday.

Marlon S. Paton, 20, died after having an apparent “medical emergency” while in police custody at Franklin Hospital in Valley Stream on Wednesday morning — 10 hours after he and six others skipped out on a $229.22 bill at an Elmont Applebee’s restaurant and ran from police before being arrested, according to authorities.

The attorney general has not yet launched its own independent investigation into Paton’s death — an option granted by the governor last year amid a national discussion on police-involved deaths — but is reviewing the case in consultation with the district attorney’s office, officials said.

The district attorney’s probe is “standard practice,” for all police custody deaths, according to Shams Tarek, a spokesman for Nassau District Attorney Madeline Singas.

“We have been in touch with the AG’s office; the AG’s office has not taken over the case,” Tarek said.

Eric Soufer, a spokesman for Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman, confirmed his office is reviewing the matter, but declined to comment further.

Det. Lt. Richard LeBrun, a Nassau police spokesman, said the department had spoken with both agencies.

“At this time, the attorney general and the district attorney’s office have been contacted and we will confer with them on the details of the case.”

LeBrun declined to provide any preliminary autopsy results for Paton, citing the ongoing investigation, but has said police believe he experienced a “medical emergency.”

The department’s Homicide Squad is also investigating.

An Applebee’s manager reported the alleged ‘dine-and-dash’ episode at 12:43 a.m. Wednesday, pointing out “three individuals” in a Chevrolet Malibu alleged to be Paton, Kristofer Pettway, 20, of Elmont, and Marquis Bernard, 21, of Brooklyn, police have said.

A group of seven people ate, drank and left without paying, according to court papers, but police would not say where the other four went or whether they were seeking them.

Police said the Malibu eventually crashed into a guardrail at a Shell gas station on Hempstead Turnpike at the corner of Fieldmere Street, where Pettway lives.

The three men then got out and took off running. Pettway was arrested without incident.

Bernard “ignored” verbal commands from officers to stop and resisted arrest as he attempted to jump over a fence, police said. He was “brought down to the ground” and “tucked his arms and clinched his hands together in a downward facing fetal position making it difficult to bring defendant’s hands around to his back,” according to court papers.

LeBrun has said police did not use any physical force against Paton, who he said stopped running and complied with officers’ verbal commands when they caught up with him attempting to hop a fence.

Paton became “lethargic and unsteady on his feet” when he was taken into custody and was placed into the backseat of a police vehicle until a police ambulance arrived and took him to the hospital, police said. He was pronounced dead there at 10:47 a.m.

Pettway and Bernard were arraigned Thursday in First District Court in Hempstead. Both pleaded not guilty.

Pettway, charged with misdemeanor theft of services, was issued a conditional release.

Bernard, the driver of the getaway car according to court documents, was charged with theft of services, resisting arrest and leaving the scene of an accident. He was held on a $1,000 bond or cash bail and was also issued a ticket for aggravated unlicensed operation of a motor vehicle.

A woman who attended both Pettway and Bernard’s arraignments and identified herself as an aunt of Paton’s said Thursday she had gone to the Applebee’s to pay the bill, but she declined to comment further. Other family members couldn’t be reached.

An Applebee’s spokesman could not be reached.

“It’s very important to clear the family’s name,” she said.

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