ANNAPOLIS, Md. (WJZ) — The death of a young man with Down syndrome who was being restrained by police brings a new development.
Alex DeMetrick reports a petition signed by nearly 400,000 Marylanders wants more answers.
Born with Down syndrome, Ethan Saylor, 26, died in January at a Frederick movie theater.
“Ethan didn’t have the ability to give three or four sentences of explanation. He just didn’t have that language ability,” said Patti Saylor, mother.
When he was asked to leave his seat or buy another ticket for a movie he had just seen, three off-duty sheriff’s deputies working as security removed him. Saylor fought back, and he died.
In the sheriff’s office incident report, witnesses describe two of the officers with their hands on the back of his shoulders. A third officer had one knee on Ethan’s lower back area. According to Frederick County’s sheriff, it showed:
“By all accounts, there was no excessive force,” said Sheriff Charles Jenkins.
“We want to know what happened during that period of time. How was he asphyxiated, and what are we going to do about it?” Patti Saylor said.
For starters, the family has gathered nearly 400,000 signatures on a petition asking Governor O’Malley to:
“Appoint an independent investigator that will get all of the facts of what really happened,” said Susan Goodman, National Down Syndrome Society.
The thrust of this isn’t only to investigate one death, but how to prevent others.
“Coming up with some new training and statewide protocols for our police officers so that we can make sure that the tragedy that has happened and the loss of life with Ethan Saylor never happens again,” said Del. Heather Mizeur, (D) Montgomery County.
It’s something Debbi Janis believes might help keep her son Gregory from an accidental escalation with police.
“This tragedy could have been my son. And when I first heard of it, I thought,. ‘Oh my God, we have to stick together,'” Janis said.
The petitions were taken to the governor, who met with the family. He agreed better police training is needed, but would only say he’d think about opening an investigation.
The governor gave no indication of when he would make a decision on the request for an independent investigation.