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Family of Young Man Who Died in Movie Theater Altercation Files Civil Lawsuit

The family of a young man with Down Syndrome, who died as a result of his treatment in a movie theater, have filed a personal injury lawsuit against the persons responsible (off-duty sheriffs), the movie theater, the property manager of the shopping center where the movie theater is located, the sheriff’s department and the county in which the terrible tragedy occurred. The lawsuit seeks unspecified damages, ranging from actual damages to punitive and compensatory damages. The lawsuit alleges that some of the parties being sued acted negligently in their actions (or inactions in failing to help) towards the young man and that some of the parties acted deliberately in their aggressive actions towards the young man.

According to The Washington Post, this civil action brought by the family of the victim comes on the heels of a grand jury finding that no criminal charges were warranted against the deputies involved in the incident. Additionally, an internal investigation within the sheriff’s department found no wrongdoing on the parts of the off-duty deputies. The family files this lawsuit, as they want to find out more about what happened to lead to their son’s death and to hold those responsible and accountable for any wrongdoing that may have occurred leading to their son’s untimely death.

The incident occurred on January 12th of this year, when three off-duty sheriff’s deputies forced the young man out of a movie theater in what is described in the complaint as a “violent, terrifying and painful” manner. The young man had just seen a movie and after initially leaving the theater, the young man re-entered the theater because he wanted to watch the movie again. When the movie theater staff told him that he would need to buy another ticket in order to see the movie again, the young man stayed seated and the deputies pulled him from his seat, told him he was under arrest and dragged him to the door. While being dragged to the door, the young man ended up on the ground and he stopped breathing, leading to his death.

An aide that was at the movie with the young man had gone to get the car when the young man first re-entered the theater, but when the aide returned (prior to the deputies dragging the young man out of the theater) he told the theater manager and the deputies that the best approach for the young man would be to wait him out a minute, in order to let him calm down, and that he would freak out if touched because of his Downs Syndrome.

The young man had an IQ of 40 and the family argues that the sheriff’s office had no procedures in place on how to deal with people who have developmental disabilities. The family of the victim stated that their goal in filing this lawsuit is to get to the bottom of what happened and to hold the persons accountable for their actions if they were wrong in how they handled the situation. Additionally, the family hopes to raise awareness about persons with developmental disabilities, and create more understanding of how to best treat persons with Down Syndrome.