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