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Frederick sheriff's deputies will not face charges in movie theater incident

Justice SystemZero Dark Thirty (movie)

Three Frederick County sheriff's deputies will not be held criminally responsible in the death of a developmentally disabled man at a movie theater in January, prosecutors said Friday.

A grand jury declined to indict the three deputies, who were attempting to remove 25-year-old Robert Ethan Saylor from the Theater 9 Westview Cinemas in Frederick when he suffocated Jan. 12, the Frederick County state's attorney's office said. Saylor, who had Down syndrome, died later at a local hospital.

Saylor had gone to the theater with a caregiver to see "Zero Dark Thirty." When the film ended, the sheriff's office said, he insisted on staying in the theater to watch it again.

Lt. Scott Jewell, Sgt. Rich Rochford and Deputy First Class James Harris, who were moonlighting as security guards, were called into the theater. In the course of trying to remove Saylor, they placed him in handcuffs. He was on his stomach when he began to suffer a medical emergency.

The deputies removed the handcuffs, attempted CPR and called for emergency medical workers, the sheriff's office said.

The state's attorney's office said deputies did not hit, kick or strike Saylor in the neck or head.

The state medical examiner found that Saylor died of asphyxia, and that Down syndrome and health problems contributed to his death, prosecutors said.

The medical examiner's office, which ruled the death a homicide, said those health issues were exacerbated by stressful conditions that could have compromised his breathing.

The deputy medical examiner, a Frederick County sheriff's office investigator, and a police training expert testified before the grand jury.

"The family is extremely disappointed, saddened by the grand jury's decision," said Sharon Krevor-Weisbaum, an attorney for the Saylor family.

A woman who answered at the Saylors' home declined to comment.

The family "will have to digest what happened today," Krevor-Weisbaum said.

She said the family will ask the sheriff's office to release its investigative reports and the full medical reports from the medical examiner's office.

A call to the deputies' attorney Friday was not immediately returned.

Jewell, Rochford and Harris, who had been placed on paid administrative leave, returned to their normal assignments.

jkanderson@baltsun.com

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