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Despite Outcry, No Charges In Death Of Man With Down Syndrome


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In a case that drew national attention, officials say no charges will be filed in the death of a 26-year-old with Down syndrome who was restrained after refusing to leave a movie theater.

A grand jury determined Friday that no crime was committed in the case of Robert Ethan Saylor. He went to see the film “Zero Dark Thirty” at a Frederick, Md. movie theater in January and wanted to watch it again after the showing was over. Three off-duty sheriff’s deputies who were working security at the venue were alerted when Saylor would not exit. They ultimately restrained him and Saylor was dead just a few minutes later.

A medical examiner found that Saylor died of asphyxia and ruled it a homicide, but ultimately the grand jury determined that charges were not warranted and that the deputies acted in accordance with their training.

In a statement, the state attorney for Frederick County said that all 17 witnesses to the incident made written statements — including the 18-year-old caretaker who had been with Saylor at the movie.

Saylor was “verbally and physically resistant,” the statement said, adding that the deputies did not hit, kick or use force near the man’s head or neck.

Saylor was handcuffed on his stomach for one to two minutes before he died, but the restraints were removed as soon as those nearby noticed he was having a health problem, officials said. At that time, an ambulance was called and CPR was administered.

The case drew broad concern from families and advocates in the disability community, many of whom said the tragedy highlighted the need for more police training on how best to interact with individuals who have developmental disabilities.

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Comments (10 Responses)

  1. Adriana says:

    Two problems: they acted according to their training – they are not trained to deal with someone who is in distress, for whatever reason and only escalate the problem.

    The second is our own society that values the disabled so little that the grand jury considered Mr. Saylor’s death his own fault, because he was abusive.

    Something is very wrong with human beings. I wonder if the same conclusion would be reached had the man not been disabled. Actually, I don’t wonder. The decision would be the opposite and the conversation would be how a life of promises was cut short.

  2. mainer says:

    All three deputies should be charged with murder. there is no excuse.

  3. KA101 says:

    Well, here in PA we averaged an asphyxiation fatality per year for the years we let schools use prone restraint. I helped remind DoE of that fact, and along with quite a few others, we got the use of prone restraint on students banned here.

    I guess Maryland believes that being Noncompliant Whilst Having Down’s is a capital offense. I’ll keep that in mind.

  4. annie says:

    That is terrifying and sad.

  5. holly says:

    If they placed thier knee on the back of his neck thats probley what killed him. Either way the US is going nazi and what has been researched across the US empathy and reasoning skills is out the door. Beware everyone. You may have to learn how to protect yourselves and your loved ones and start punching back. Bystanders as the general public are taught not to interfer as we all noticed in the ohio rape of a young girl just recently.
    mom of young adult in west mich

  6. Nancy Szymkowiak says:

    Training should include special health conditions. People with Down Syndrome often have shorter than average limbs. Anyone who knows this would know handcuffing him behind his back and laying him on his stomach could be a problem. This is outrageous.

  7. Cathy says:

    Why is no one mentioning the movie theater mis-management in this situation? The movie theatre needs disability training. Would there have been any harm in letting the young man and his assistant just watch the movie again?

  8. Merry Ann Liverman says:

    Shame on the people that let the Officers off the hook . They should had to take hours of training on people with a diability. Make all poloice Officers take training TOO. SHAME ON YOU!!!!!

  9. Debby says:

    I don’t get it. I wonder about the training of the 18 year old aide, but more than that, how could you miss the fact that this young man had intellectual challenges? More importantly I wonder what, if any training the officers had. This is a disgrace and having no charges filed makes it 100 times more disgraceful. By the way, were they just worried about getting paid for the second showing? This is truly a travesty and sends the message….” What is the big deal, it is only a man with Down Syndrome.”

  10. al says:

    May God forgive these “idiots”!

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