The parents of a man with Down syndrome who was killed by police at a movie theater in Maryland have filed a lawsuit against three sheriff’s deputies for causing his “violent, terrifying, and painful death” as they tried to remove him from a movie theater.

Robert Ethan Saylor, 26, of New Market, Md., asphyxiated on Jan. 12 after the three Frederick County deputies, who were moonlighting as mall security officers, dragged him out of the theater in handcuffs and restraints.  The Westview Regal Cinema called the deputies because Saylor went back in without a ticket to watch “Zero Dark Thirty” a second time.  Saylor’s aide told investigators she told deputies that Saylor would “freak out” due to his disorder if they touched him.  Witnesses said as the officers restrained him, he screamed, “Mommy! Mommy! It hurts!”

In the lawsuit, filed in Baltimore District Court, Ronald and Patricia Saylor allege that their son ended up on the floor with the deputies on top of him, “As the deputies manhandled Mr. Saylor, they fractured his larynx, making it difficult for him to breathe.  Because this was apparent, the deputies rolled him to his side, removed his handcuffs, and called emergency medical technicians. It was too late…”

Daniel Karp, one of the sheriff’s office’s attorneys told the AP that Saylor’s Adam’s apple could have been damaged when paramedics inserted a breathing tube and that his clients did not put pressure on Saylor’s neck.  Besides the deputies — Richard Rochford, Scott Jewell and James Harris — the suit names the theater’s parent company, the property manager and Frederick County as defendants. It seeks unspecified damages under the Americans With Disabilities Act.

The state Medical Examiner declared Saylor’s death a homicide (a death caused by another human being), but a grand jury didn’t find probable cause to indict the deputies.  The officers have returned to duty.  The decision led to a civil rights investigation by the U.S. Justice Department, which is ongoing.  Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley also created a commission to set new guidelines for emergency crews in incidents involving people with developmental disabilities.


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