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Family Of Disabled Man Who Died In Police Custody Files Civil Suit

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Ethan Saylor
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FREDERICK, Md. (WJZ) — The family of a man with Down syndrome who died in police custody at a movie theater is suing Frederick County. The suit–just filed Thursday–says Ethan Saylor’s death was tragic and unnecessary.

Kai Jackson has the latest in the controversial case.

Ethan Saylor’s family was never satisfied with the grand jury’s decision not to indict the officers involved, so now they’ve filed a lawsuit in an effort to get justice for Ethan.

The death of Ethan Saylor is a tragic set of events that haunts his family. His parents have filed a civil suit, alleging gross negligence and recklessness against the Frederick County Sheriff’s Office.

“Ethan would still be alive if any of the individuals or entities acting on the night he was killed had stopped for a minute and thought about what they were doing,” said Joseph Espo, Saylor family attorney.

Ethan, who was 26 and had Down syndrome, went to a movie on January 12 in Frederick. The theater called police saying Ethan stayed for another showing, but refused to purchase a ticket.

Ethan’s aide spoke confidentially with WJZ last month.

“I kept telling them, ‘Why don’t you just let me go in there? Give me a few minutes with him. I’ll just give him a big hug and he’ll be right out.’ But they wouldn’t listen,” she said.

Sheriff’s deputies arrived and forcibly removed Ethan, despite Ethan’s aide warning them he didn’t like to be touched.

“I guess what I want to see is the rights for all special needs kids,” the aide said.

He was handcuffed and deputies reportedly sat on him. Ethan died and the medical examiner ruled the cause was asphyxiation.

A departmental investigation cleared the deputies of any wrongdoing and a Frederick County grand jury refused to indict them.

“It was the same ball dropped by a number of different people,” Espo said.

In the lawsuit, Saylor’s family alleges Westview Regal Cinemas violated the Americans With Disabilities Act because they claim the cinema didn’t allow Ethan the proper time to have his assistant remove him from the theater.

More than 300,000 people signed a petition asking Governor Martin O’Malley for an independent investigation into Ethan’s death.

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