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Judge: Lawsuit Can Move Forward In Death Of Md. Man With Down Syndrome

BALTIMORE (WJZ) -- Three-and-a-half years ago, a 26-year-old Maryland man with Down syndrome went to the movies with an aide, and never returned home.

His name was Robert Ethan Saylor, and he died on January 12, 2013 after going to see a showing of the film "Zero Dark Thirty."

He liked it so much, he refused to leave after it was over. Security was called in, and arrived in the form of three off-duty Frederick County sheriff's deputies who were moonlighting as guards at the Westview Promenade shopping center.

The sheriff's office says Saylor began striking the officers after they told him he either needed to buy another ticket or leave the theater. They say they restrained him using handcuffs and escorted him out. At some point, Saylor ended up on the ground, showing signs of medical distress. He was pronounced dead at a local hospital.

His death was ruled a homicide as a result of asphyxia, but a grand jury declined to indict the officers involved.

Last week, however, a federal judge ruled to allow a lawsuit filed by Saylor's family against the officers to proceed. The ruling was in response to motions filed by the deputies, the state and the shopping center's management company to have the case dismissed.

The National Down Syndrome Society has released a statement in support of the judge's decision.

"NDSS is hopeful that a civil trial will call the public's attention to the unjustified use of excessive force in this case and so many other cases involving conflicts between law enforcement officers and individuals with disabilities, and will provide the Saylor family with some sense of justice for the loss of their beloved son."

NDSS is currently working with the U.S. Department of Justice's Community Relations Service to develop a model law enforcement training curriculum.

This is a developing story.

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