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Maryland deputies on leave after death of disabled man in custody

Robert Ethan Saylor is shown in this family photograph released to Reuters on February 20, 2013. Saylor, 26, who had Down syndrome, was arre
Robert Ethan Saylor is shown in this family photograph released to Reuters on February 20, 2013. Saylor, 26, who had Down syndrome, was arre

By Medina Roshan

ANNAPOLIS, Maryland (Reuters) - Three sheriff's deputies from Frederick County, Maryland, have been placed on administrative leave following the suffocation of a mentally disabled man, a death that has been ruled a homicide.

Lieutenant Scott Jewell, Sergeant Rich Rochford and Deputy First Class James Harris were placed on leave on Monday morning pending an internal investigation into the January 12 arrest and death of Robert Saylor, 26, who had Down syndrome, said sheriff's spokeswoman Corporal Jennifer Bailey.

The deputies were responding to a report from an employee of Regal Cinemas Westview Stadium 16 in Frederick, about 50 miles west of Baltimore, that Saylor refused to leave his seat after watching "Zero Dark Thirty."

Saylor began cursing at officers and had to be physically removed from the theater and handcuffed, authorities said.

While in custody, Saylor was placed face down on the ground and became distressed, according to a report by ABC's Washington affiliate WJLA that quoted a law enforcement source familiar with the case.

The Chief Medical Examiner ruled "the cause of death as asphyxia and the manner of death as homicide," the sheriff's office said in a press release last week.

In addition to an internal investigation by the sheriff's department, an inquiry into Saylor's death by the Frederick County Bureau of Investigation is pending.

Results will be sent to Frederick County State's Attorney J. Charles Smith III, who will determine whether to convene a grand jury, Bailey said.

An assistant to Saylor's mother, Patti Saylor, said in a phone interview that the family declined comment.

(Editing by Barbara Goldberg; Editing by Steve Orlofsky)

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