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Homicide Ruled After Man With Down Syndrome Restrained


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There are more questions than answers following the death of a 26-year-old with Down syndrome at the hands of law enforcement who were called in when the man refused to leave a movie theater.

Authorities say that Robert Ethan Saylor went to see “Zero Dark Thirty” at a Frederick, Md. movie theater last month, but when the film ended he wanted to see it again and refused to leave. At that point, three off-duty sheriff’s deputies, who were providing security at the venue, were called in.

It’s unclear exactly what happened next, but ultimately Saylor was restrained by the deputies and began showing signs of a medical problem. He was pronounced dead not long after.

Now a medical examiner has ruled the death a homicide and his family is looking for answers. They say that Saylor idolized law enforcement and the family indicated that an aide was with the young man at the movies, saying that they could have been called to assist.

Currently, the deputies involved in the incident are on paid administrative leave while an investigation continues. The circumstances of the case, however, have disability advocates and families of those with Down syndrome on edge, reports The Washington Post. To read more click here.

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Comments (6 Responses)

  1. Jennifer says:

    From the articles I read, his companion was with him. Why did the companion not intervene and purchase the tickets?

    If the guards (who were off-duty cops) over-reacted, throw the book at them, but I’d like to know why the companion did not try to get the man to leave or pay for the tickets.

  2. Deb Keller says:

    Had UNIFORMED law enforcement been called, even a uniformed guard, this horror might have been avoided. Why did this mall have non-uniformed security staff? And were these officers educated as to the difference between mentally ILL people and mentally DISABLED people? There is a big difference that is not always apparent during a tantrum.

  3. Shirley from VA says:

    For the above commenter – there are several possible scenarios for the “why didnt the companion just pay or get him to leave?” For one the companion may not have had the money for another movie-, the movie may not have been shown again until much later. Plus as anyone who works with people who have Down Syndrome knows they can be VERY stubborn -once they have made a decision to stay there is no moving them no matter how much cajoling or nagging you might want to do.The one thing people seem to be missing in all this was that these men WERE NOT IN UNIFORM !! This man had probably been taught “dont go with strangers” and these were strangers who were forcing him to go where he did not want to go. I would bet that if these men had been in uniform with all their badges it would have been a different story, What would probably be better would be explaining that some officers “do their job” when off duty. But then again how many times have we read where men would try to impersonate officers by flashing fake badges and saying they were off duty???

  4. kmichaud says:

    I agree that the companion did not do an adequate job to “dial down” an escalating situation, however, the reality is most individuals who do this job are not sufficiently trained. There were many options that the companion could have used, such as: (a) simple explanation to both theater worker, and security about the nature of the man’s disability; (b)a call to family; preparing the man for leaving well in advance; (c)paying, or leaving an iou to pay if no extra money was on hand; and (d) a request for uniformed assistance. Certainly law enforcement should also be trained, but it is a sad truth that most care givers are expected to “learn on the job.”

  5. HR says:

    Utterly senseless, completely avoidable tragedy, had these deputies engaged their brains even a little bit.
    And we have people pointing the finger at his companion? What was his companion supposed to do, barge in and toss the three off-duty cops off the young man?
    Yes, police often have a pressure-filled job and often have to make split second life or death decisions. But not in this situation, not at all. This was a barbaric act by these off-duty cops.

  6. cindy schaap says:

    The main person at fault is the movie theater employee. How many people stay to watch a movie a second time and NEVER get hassles. The employee needs to be brought up on charges for harrassment and violating the ADA.

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