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Grand Jury Will Not Indict Deputies in Death of Man with Downs Syndrome

Posted on Apr 04, 2013

A Maryland man with Down’s syndrome is dead after being forcibly restrained by three sheriff’s deputies while visiting a movie theater. Family members believe the man would be alive if police had been sensitive to his disability. However, the deputies will not be criminally charged.

Twenty-six-year-old Robert Ethan Saylor of New Market, Maryland was watching Zero Dark Thirty at a movie theater last January. He was with an 18-year-old caretaker. The 18-year-old had left the theater for a few moments. 

The show ended, and Saylor, who had Down’s syndrome, remained in his seat because he wanted to see the movie again. An employee asked him to leave. When Saylor refused, security was called. Saylor continued to resist both physically and verbally.

A medical examiner determined that Saylor died of asphyxia. While he ruled the death a homicide, a grand jury determined that there are no grounds for criminal charges because the deputies acted in accordance with their training. Witnesses say that while the deputies restrained Saylor, they did not hit, kick, or use force near the man’s head or neck and that the restraints were removed, and an ambulance was called as soon as officers noticed he was having a health problem.

Family members do not agree. They believe that if the officers had let Saylor sit until his caretaker arrived, Saylor would still be alive. The disabled community has stressed the need for officers to receive more training on how to best interact with individuals who have developmental disabilities.

The men were put on six weeks of administrative leave after the incident.

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John L. Keefe
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