Cops Who Killed Man With Down Syndrome Over Movie Ticket Blame Paramedics Who Tried to Save Him

Three cops facing a wrongful-death suit in connection with the death of a man with Down syndrome will argue that his death was the result of pre-existing medical conditions, according to filings with the U.S. District Court.


Robert Saylora 26-year-old with Down syndrome, was at a movie theater with a health care aide watching Zero Dark Thirty. The movie had finished, but Saylor didn’t want to leave the theater after the film ended, hoping to watch it again.

The cinema manager, frutrated that the mentally handicapped man didn’t understand that one ticket was only good for one viewing, called three off-duty-deputies who were moonlighting as security guards. The cops decided to forcibly evict Saylor from the theater, refusing to listen to his aide, who had already contacted Saylor’s mother in an effort to defuse the situation.

As is all too common, the cops got violent, taking Saylor to the ground and piling on top of him as they attempted to handcuff him. In the process, his trachea was fractured and he died of asphyxiation. The autopsy report indicated that Saylor died from asphyxiation, and had sustained a fracture to his larynx, with the coroner listing his cause of death as homicide.

While Saylor’s death was ruled a homicide, an internal “investigation” cleared the three officers, Lt. Scott Jewell, Sgt. Rich Rochford and Deputy First Class James Harris, of any wrongdoing. No charges were brought against any of the officers. Much to the dismay of almost everyone involved in the case, a Frederick County grand jury declined to indict the deputies after their review of the case.

After the failure of the state to hold the officers criminally accountable for Saylor's death, the family filed a wrongful-death suit against the deputies.

According to a report in the Frederick News Post:

In the initial complaint, filed in October 2013, Saylor’s family alleged violations of his civil rights and of the Americans with Disabilities Act by the state, county sheriff’s deputies and the companies that employed the men as security guards at the Regal Cinemas Westview Stadium 16 theater.

A year later, a federal judge dismissed all of the claims against the theater company, and also dismissed a simple negligence claim against the deputies and a wrongful-death claim against the state.

Claims that the deputies — Richard Rochford, Scott Jewell and James Harris — were grossly negligent and that the state failed to train them were allowed to go forward.

While the family is certain that the fractured larynx was a result of the violent altercation, defense attorneys for the cops claimed in their latest court filings that the injuries found on Saylor were from the paramedic’s efforts to save his life, and not their brutal attack.

One of the experts identified by the defense was Dr. Jeffrey Fillmore, the emergency department physician who treated Saylor at Frederick Memorial Hospital. According to court filing by the defense, Fillmore would testify that the autopsy and other evidence are not consistent with asphyxia as the cause of Saylor’s death.

On Tuesday, Joseph Espo, an attorney for Saylor’s family, told the AP that his expert witnesses disagree with almost everything in the filing by the deputies’ attorneys. Records indicate that those witnesses include a disabilities expert, a police liabilities expert, a pathologist and another medical doctor.

Saylor was an avid fan of law enforcement and was reportedly fascinated by police. Some may argue that the cops did not intend to kill him, but the fact that they couldn’t de-escalate a simple situation over a movie ticket, and instead resorted to deadly violence speaks to the corrupting sickness that is prevalent in policing today.

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