On January 12, 2013, Robert Ethan Saylor was in a movie theater watching “Zero Dark Thirty.” Saylor suffered from Down syndrome. When the movie ended, he and his caretaker left the theater. Saylor returned inside, took a seat, and was told by the manager to leave. Three ‘moonlighting’ Frederick County Sheriff’s Deputies came to forcibly remove the 26-year-old, 294 pound Saylor. His 18-year-old caretaker witnessed the situation, and warned the officers not to touch or speak to him, or he would ‘freak-out.’ The Down syndrome victim was removed from the Maryland theater, and died minutes later from asphyxia.
There is a 98 page incident report, and statements from 22 eyewitnesses. The state medical examiner labeled the event a homicide, but the grand jury decided not to indict the three officers.
Saylor had a history of angry outbursts. When he and his caretaker left, and were out front of the theater, she asked him if he was ready to go home. Saylor began cursing, and punched a store front window.
The caretaker called Saylor’s mother, Patti. She said to just wait and his attitude would change.
The caretaker phoned another of Saylor’s aides, and was told to leave him alone, get the car, and that he would have time to calm himself down. When she returned, she realized Saylor had returned inside of the theater.
She saw the manager talking to him, and told him: “I explained, ‘Yes, we are having a little issue, I’ll handle it. We just have to be patient,” the caretaker wrote. While the three officers waited, a Sheriff came in and said “Ethan,” his family’s name for him, had to leave before the next showing began. She explained that he was a Down syndrome patient, and not to talk to him because he would start cursing. The officer ignored her, and when he spoke to Ethan, he began swearing.
As she warned the officers, they were handcuffing him and began to forcibly remove Saylor. He began cursing and crying for his mother.
Witnesses said that the officers used ‘unnecessary force,’ placing a knee in his back, forcing him out of the theater.
An independent investigation is being called for into the unfortunate death of a man with Down syndrome who was forcibly removed from a Maryland theater and died minutes later.
Alfred James reporting