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Had Officers Not Touched Him, Md. Man With Down Syndrome Might Still Be Alive

FREDERICK, Md. (WJZ) — A young man with Down Syndrome died as sheriff’s deputies tried to force him out of a Frederick County movie theater. The sheriff’s office has released their full investigative report on what happened inside that theater.

Derek Valcourt has more on the contents of that report.

It was a crowded movie theater and for the first time, we’re hearing the witness accounts of what happened.

Twenty-six-year-old Ethan Saylor–who had Down Syndrome–had already seen the movie “Zero Dark Thirty” once at a theater on January 12 and wanted to watch it again. This time, without buying a ticket. When he refused to leave the theater, police forced him out. In the struggle, he stopped breathing.

After outrage and calls for a thorough investigation, the Frederick County Sheriff’s Department released a full incident report with more than 150 pages of statements and interviews, including a sworn written statement from the caretaker who was with Ethan that day. She says she explained to the deputy, “Ethan is Down Syndrome” and warning, “Please don’t touch him. He will freak out.”

She adds she told the deputy, “not to talk to him. His mom would prefer if we wait it out.”

“He has never had anyone put their hands on him before in his life,” his mother said in February.

In the many witness accounts in this report, most of the theater-goers saw the deputies grab Saylor out of his seat and take him to the other side of the wall to the entrance ramp hallway. At that point, they could no longer see; they could only hear a struggle–and then they say it got quiet.

But one theatergoer said he walked over to the railing and looked down on two officers holding Saylor to the ground with their hands on the back of his shoulders. A third officer had one knee on Saylor’s lower back area.

“By all accounts, there was no excessive force,” said Frederick County Sheriff Chuck Jenkins in February.

Jenkins says his deputies acted professionally and a grand jury refused to indict the officers.

“I sympathize with the family. I really wish we could have that moment in time back,” said Jenkins in February.

The Frederick County Sheriff’s Office has declined to comment on the report. Our calls to the Sheriff Department’s attorney were not returned.

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