Robert Ethan Saylor, a young man with Down syndrome, passed away at a movie theater in January. He had been there with an aide watching Zero Dark Thirty. After the movie ended he wanted to see it again. A theater employee told him he needed to leave the theater and buy another ticket if he wanted to watch it again.
He refused to leave the theater; at some point his aide left to get the car, and the theater employee called mall security. Three off-duty police officers working as security guards arrived. Witnesses say when they tried to remove him from the theater he verbally and physically resisted those attempts.
The situation escalated and Mr. Saylor ended up on the floor, on his stomach, and handcuffed. The officers say he was only down on the floor for 1 or 2 minutes and they noticed he was having trouble breathing and took the handcuffs off. Attempts to revive him were unsuccessful.
The medical examiner's findings were that he died of asphyxiation and ruled his death a homicide. The police department had an internal investigation. A recent grand jury rejected criminal charges and decided no crime took place.
How can a man die on the floor of a movie theater and no one is charged? No one is held accountable?
I'm not saying nothing should have been done in the situation. I'm not saying he should have been left to watch the movie again without paying. Just because he had Down syndrome doesn't mean he should have received a free pass to do what he wanted to do.
But the situation didn't have to get out of control like it did. He didn't have to die. A little patience? A little common sense?
Reports say his mother was on her way - whether the police officers were made aware of that fact or not, I don't know.
The grand jury proceedings are secretive in Maryland, so I don't know what the 17 witness statements showed, but a few articles have quoted a witness as saying Mr. Saylor was saying he wanted his mom. Surely these officers could see that he had Down syndrome. Surely they could conclude he had an intellectual disability.
According to this article, it states "Law-enforcement manuals say never to leave suspects handcuffed on their stomachs, because the risk of sudden death by asphyxiation is too great." Yet Mr Saylor was left for '1 or 2 minutes' in that exact position.
The National Down Syndrome Congress, released this statement after a meeting with the Department of Justice and various other agencies, saying that Mr. Saylor's civil rights were violated and also called for an independent investigation.
Please consider signing this petition requesting an independent investigation.