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Death of man with Down syndrome provokes public backlash against police

Published time: August 26, 2013 21:39
AFP Photo / Jewel Samad

AFP Photo / Jewel Samad

Nearly a quarter-million people have signed a petition asking Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley to launch an investigation into the January death of a man with Down syndrome killed during a struggle with police at a Frederick, MD movie theatre.

Seven months after Ethan Saylor died in police custody, the man’s friends and family have collected over 233,400 signatures asking Gov. O’Malley for an independent investigation “so the facts can come out and those responsible can be appropriately prosecuted.”

Saylor, 26, passed away earlier this year after his larynx was crushed during a confrontation that ended with three off-duty sheriff’s officers attempting to subdue the man. Saylor was attending a screening of the film “Zero Dark Thirty” and reportedly refused to leave at the conclusion of the movie. When the deputies attempted to move him, Saylor’s caregiver warned that touching the man would make things worse. But according to witnesses, he was thrown to the ground and struggled under the weight of the three officers before he died.

I never thought that anything like this would happen in my town, let alone to my brother,” his sister, 23-year-old Emma Saylor, told Yahoo News.

Robert Ethan Saylor

The coroner’s office ultimately ruled Mr. Saylor’s death a homicide by asphyxiation, but a grand jury put together in response elected not to indict any of the men for their role in his passing. The Department of Justice has since launched a probe of their own to see if Saylor’s civil rights were violated under the American with Disabilities Act, but now nearly a quarter-of-a-million people have signed their name asking for the governor to give the case another try.

His senseless death was ruled a homicide, but the Frederick County Sheriff and Prosecutor neglected to conduct a thorough investigation of the facts and the grand jury refused to indict. Ethan’s death was senseless and entirely avoidable and we need an independent, completed, and thorough investigation as to what happened that night,” a copy of the petition reads on

The 200,000-plug who have signed on are asking for Gov. O’Malley to make sure cops within the state are better prepared to handle situations with the developmentally disabled.

Part of the problem is that police officers in Maryland aren't trained enough in how to deal with developmentally disabled people like my brother. I think training is an important next step in making sure that what happens to my brother never happens to anyone else,” Emma Saylor says on the page.

We obviously want better training for law enforcement and first responders,” Sara Weir, vice president of advocacy for the National Down Syndrome Society, told Yahoo.

From our perspective as a national organization, we need to know what happened that night so we make sure something like this never happens again,” she added.

Comments (15)


Say No To 09.06.2014 01:00

Nowadays in America, you are not entitled to any rights, unless you are openly G*y, Les-bian, Be-sexual, Trans-gender, or Atheist. Besides these, the rights of any other group are "expendable&quo t; .


Bear 08.06.2014 16:19

The very first law that is taught to any new police office is that 'You never arrest one of your own'. After hearing that I got up walked out went home packed everything I had, gave away what I could not take with me back to my home country.


mergon 06.06.2014 09:43

It used to be , dont bring a knife to a gun fight ,now the American police say just bring a gun if they are unarmed its easier to kill them and if they are disabled all the better

You people live in a sick country !

View all comments (15)
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