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Maryland seeks dismissal of allegations state was at fault in death of man with Down syndrome

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BALTIMORE — The state of Maryland on Wednesday asked a federal judge to dismiss allegations that its failure to teach police officers how to handle people with developmental disabilities contributed to the death of a man with Down syndrome who suffocated in the custody of three Frederick County sheriff's deputies moonlighting as mall security officers.

Robert Ethan Saylor was arrested because he was trespassing, stealing and disobeying a lawful order, not because of his disability, Attorney General Douglas Gansler wrote in a document filed in U.S. District Court in Baltimore.

Saylor, 26, of New Market, died Jan. 12, 2013, at the Westview Promenade mall as deputies tried to forcibly remove him from a movie theater because he didn't have a ticket for a repeat viewing of "Zero Dark Thirty." He died of asphyxia with a fractured larynx, according to the state medical examiner's office. The death was ruled a homicide. A Frederick County grand jury declined to indict the officers.

Saylor's estate sued the deputies; Regal Cinemas Inc. of Knoxville, Tennessee; and mall operator Hill Management Services of Timonium for unspecified damages in October. The plaintiffs added the state to the lawsuit in March, alleging that its failure to train the deputies violated the Americans With Disabilities Act.

The state is defending itself against the allegation even as it develops, in response to Saylor's death, a law enforcement training regimen tailored to people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

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