On January 12, 2013, a 26 year old man with Down syndrome named Ethan Saylor was killed after a brutal altercation with three off-duty County Sheriff Deputy Officers.
The story begins at a Maryland movie theatre. After watching the movie “Zero Dark Thirty” with his aide, the aide left Ethan alone at the theatre to retrieve her car. While waiting outside, Ethan decided he wanted to see the movie a second time and walked back into the auditorium without paying for a second ticket.
The theatre manager called security to report the incident. Within minutes, three off-duty Frederick County Sheriff Deputies entered the auditorium to remove Ethan from his seat. After a heated exchange of words, the three Deputies proceeded to throw Ethan to the lobby floor and pin him down to handcuff him. During this altercation, Ethan’s larynx was crushed. Unable to breathe, Ethan Saylor died at the scene from asphyxiation. The death was immediately ruled a homicide.
Before the officers grabbed Ethan, the aide had warned them not to touch him and stated that she alone could properly de-escalate and resolve the situation. Ignoring her pleas, the officers instead proceeded to subdue him. Had the officers heeded the warnings of the aide, Ethan Saylor might be alive today.
In July, the Frederick County Sheriff’s department conducted an internal investigation and cleared the officers of all wrongdoing.
This case represents a profound tragedy on so many levels within the special needs community. Calls for an independent investigation have been voiced from many Down syndrome organizations including the National Down Syndrome Society (NDSS) and National Down Syndrome Congress (NDSC).
The Month of October is National Down Syndrome Month. Throughout the county, hundreds of awareness events called Buddy Walks will take place. Our regional Buddy Walk on October 19th is dedicated to honor the memory of Ethan Saylor.
If you would like to sign a petition seeking justice for Ethan, please visit this site.