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Frederick County Sheriff Speaks Out For First Time Since Disabled Man Dies In Police Custody

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Christie Ileto joined WJZ's News Team in the fall of 2012. She was...
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FREDERICK, Md. (WJZ) — The Frederick County Sheriff is breaking his silence after a developmentally disabled man dies when deputies remove him from a movie theater.

Christie Ileto has more on the backlash swirling around the department.

Frederick County Sheriff Charles Jenkins says his deputies were nothing but professional when they removed 26-year-old Robert Ethan Saylor, who had Down syndrome, from a Frederick movie theater last month.

“There did  come a point when they had to remove him from his seat. By all accounts, there was no excessive force,” Jenkins said.

Investigators say security was called when Saylor refused to leave after the health aide who accompanied him to the theater told him to wait inside while she got the car.

Off-duty deputies Lt. Scott Jewell, Sgt. Rick Rochford and Deputy First Class James Harris put Saylor in handcuffs, face-down. That’s when police say he suffered a medical emergency and died.

“They did have to handcuff Mr. Saylor and unfortunately as they were walking out, they believed he suffered a medical emergency,” said Jenkins.

The state medical examiner says Saylor died of asphyxiation when he was forcibly removed. His death is now a homicide, and his family is appalled.

“He’s never had anybody put their hands on him before,” said Patti Saylor.

Sheriff Jenkins says this case is equally as difficult, as he was childhood friends with the victim’s father.

“I really sympathize with the family. I really wish we could have that moment in time back,” he said.

But that’s little comfort to this small community. Hundreds of comments are posting by the day on the department’s Facebook page, saying the officers should be disgraced, jailed and fired.

“We miss him,” said Pastor Richard.

Now it’s not just answers this outraged community wants, but justice for Saylor–who many say loved unconditionally.

The three deputies are on administrative leave. Frederick County’s top prosecutor promises a thorough investigation.

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