Ethan Saylor, a man with Down Syndrome, was just 26 years old when he was attacked and murdered by police officers at a movie theater. He’d gone to see Zero Dark Thirty with his health aide. When the film was over, Saylor decided he wanted to stay and see the movie again. His aide had left the theater to get the car. Police moved in on Saylor because he didn’t have a ticket for the second showing of the film and the aide had, by then, returned to the lobby. She warned them not to touch Saylor saying that due to his condition he would become easily upset. They didn’t listen and instead attacked Saylor, throwing him to the ground and piling on top of him, crushing his larynx as he tried to cry out for help. He managed to squeeze out the words “help, ouch!” and “Mommy!” while, according to eyewitnesses, three policemen were piling on top of him. His death has been ruled a homicide.
Of course, the Maryland police don’t see it that way. They launched their own investigation and found that police did not do anything wrong. Now, Saylor’s sister Emma has launched a Change.org petition to call for the attorney general and the governor to launch an independent investigation into the circumstances surrounding Saylor’s death.
The petition explains what happened that night:
My big brother Ethan, who had Down syndrome, was killed by three police officers earlier this year. His crime? Not buying a $12 movie ticket. And now the police officers who killed my brother are getting off with no consequences.
On January 12, 2013, my brother Ethan went to the movies. When the movie was over, he returned to his seat to see it again. Three police officers told Ethan he had to leave, but Ethan didn’t understand why. He got frustrated and afraid when the officers told him he was going to jail. His aide came into the theater and told the officers that they should not touch Ethan because it would only make him more upset. He needed time to process their request.
But the officers didn’t listen. Witnesses say they threw Ethan to the ground and piled on top of him. Seconds later, Ethan couldn’t breathe, and eventually died. The coroner ruled that his death was homicide by asphyxiation.
The petition goes on to say that Maryland police officers are not trained to handle people who have developmental disabilities and that the police responsible for Ethan’s death deserve to be punished.
To add irony to a tragic situation, it has now been revealed that due to ADA laws, people with developmental disabilities do not even need to purchase a movie ticket if they are with a health aide or other companion. Heather Mizeur explains: “It turns out that under the ADA laws, a caretaker doesn’t need to have a ticket with someone with a disability at a movie theater anyway, so the two tickets that were purchased for Ethan and his caretaker would have been sufficient for him to stay a second time.”
So far, there has been no word on whether the attorney general and governor will begin an independent investigation on the incident. For now, all three police officers are still on duty.
By: Rebecca Savastio