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Justice Department Looking Into Death Of Man With Down Syndrome At Movie Theater

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Robert Ethan Saylor

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FREDERICK, Md. (WJZ) — Days after new details emerge in an autopsy report, the Department of Justice says it will continue looking into the death of a disabled man who died while in police custody in Frederick.

Monique Griego has more.

Last week, a grand jury declined to indict those deputies, but that isn’t stopping the family from seeking justice.

It was back in January when 25-year-old Robert Saylor, who had Down syndrome, refused to leave a Frederick movie theater. Three off-duty deputies moonlighting as security responded.

Police say once Saylor became combative, the deputies handcuffed him face down. That’s when he suffered a medical emergency and died.

After a request from Down syndrome advocates, this week the Department of Justice agreed to continue looking into the case. Attorney Joseph Espo represents Saylor’s family.

“The family would welcome a truly independent examination of events that led to their son’s death,” said Espo.

The medical examiner ruled Saylor’s death a homicide by asphyxiation, but last week a grand jury declined to indict.

“They felt that no further investigation was necessary to make a decision on the criminality of the deputies’ conduct,” said J. Charles Smith, Md. State’s Attorney.

This week, the state of Maryland released its official autopsy report. In it, new details emerged about health conditions that could have contributed to Saylor’s death.

The report said his developmental disability, obesity, heart disease and a heart abnormality made him more susceptible to sudden death in stressful conditions which could compromise his breathing.

The report also said Saylor had anger issues, especially when someone touched him.

Still, Espo says the report doesn’t change the fact that Saylor died because of the deputies’ actions.

“Had they simply backed off, waited for either Mr. Saylor’s family or his aide and simply exercised better judgment,” he said.

As of right now, the Department of Justice is just reviewing the case. The agency does have federal jurisdiction to prosecute people who may have violated someone’s civil rights.

The family has yet to file any civil suits in the case.

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