Settlement Reached In High-Profile Death Of Man With Down Syndrome
FREDERICK, Md. — The family of Ethan Saylor, a man with Down syndrome who died after a confrontation with off-duty Frederick County sheriff’s deputies in 2013, will receive $1.9 million in a settlement reached earlier this month.
Saylor, who was 26, tried to enter a second screening of “Zero Dark Thirty” at the Westview Promenade movie theater on Jan. 12, 2013, without buying another ticket. The three deputies, who were working as security on behalf of Hill Management Services at the time, tried to remove Saylor and a struggle ensued. Saylor suffered a fractured larynx during the encounter and died of asphyxia, according to autopsy reports.
“It’s some closure, and now the job of really healing and going forward is possible,” Patti Saylor, Ethan’s mother, said when reached for comment. “… In a long, drawn-out court case like this, healing isn’t always possible, so now that this settlement has been reached, we can start to focus on that.”
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Patti and her husband, Ronald Saylor, filed a complaint in the U.S. District Court of Maryland in October 2013 against the state, Regal Cinemas, Frederick County, the sheriff’s office, the three deputies involved and Hill Management Services.
The complaint alleged that Ethan’s civil rights were violated along with his rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act.
While the county, the movie theater and the sheriff’s office were eventually dismissed from the case, the three deputies, Hill Management and the state of Maryland will each pay toward the total $1.9 million settlement, which was drafted April 19 and obtained by The Frederick News-Post this week.
“Obviously, the Saylor family would rather have Ethan home and healthy, but that obviously is not something that could be given to them by the court,” said Joseph B. Espo, an attorney representing the Saylor family. “The settlement, in combination with the advocacy work Mrs. Saylor has done … will hopefully be a spur to other members of the law enforcement community to remember when they are dealing with individuals with various disabilities that they, too, have a right to be out in the world and to be safe from excessive force.”
The three deputies, Richard Rochford, Scott Jewell and James Harris, will pay a total of $800,000, while the state of Maryland and Hill Management will pay $645,000 and $455,000, respectively, according to the settlement, which was signed by the Saylors and representatives of the other involved parties).
Daniel Karp, an attorney for the three deputies, did not immediately return a call seeking comment.
The Maryland Attorney General’s Office declined to comment on the case, according to an email response to The Frederick News-Post’s questions by Raquel Coombs, a spokeswoman for the office.
Saylor’s family filed the original complaint after an investigation by the Frederick County Sheriff’s Office concluded that the deputies involved used reasonable force and a grand jury declined to indict them on charges of criminal misconduct.
The family continued to call for an independent investigation after Ethan’s death and before filing the complaint, and Patti Saylor increased her advocacy efforts as the case wore on.
“As the parent of a child with disabilities, you’re fighting and standing up for them from the moment that they are born,” Patti Saylor said. “… I fought for him during his life and I fought for him after his death.”
The New Market family’s outspokenness, combined with the lawsuit and a governor’s commission named in Ethan’s honor, eventually led to changes in the way first responders and police in Maryland are trained to handle interactions involving people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
While the advancements in training are part of Ethan’s legacy, Patti Saylor said she advocates for law enforcement officers to sit down with people from the disability community in order to build relationships with them.
“It has to go beyond simply sitting in a training session and learning about a disability … having relationships between law enforcement officers and people with disabilities, that is sustaining and that will be longer-lasting,” Patti Saylor said.
© 2018 The Frederick News-Post
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