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New Panel Begins Work After In Custody Death Of Md. Man With Down Syndrome

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Ethan Saylor
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Mary Bubala joined WJZ in December 2003. She now anchors the 4-4:30...
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FREDERICK, Md. (WJZ)—The in custody death of Robert Ethan Saylor has led to the first ever commission of its kind in the United States, and it’s here in Maryland.

Mary Bubala reports the new task force will make sure police are better trained to communicate with people who have developmental disabilities.

The groundbreaking commission comes after an incident on Jan.12 when 26-year-old Saylor– a Frederick man with Down syndrome–was physically removed from a movie theater by police for not having a $12 ticket.

He was handcuffed, and deputies reportedly sat on him. Saylor died of asphyxiation.

Saylor’s family petitioned Gov. Martin O’Malley for an independent investigation and better police training. One of those two wishes came true with this new commission.

“I think the goal here is to make sure that no one is treated unjustly or incorrectly just out of ignorance,” said Dr. Tim Shriver.

Shriver is CEO of the Special Olympics and chair of the new commission.

From advocates for people with developmental disabilities to police officers in Maryland, these leaders will work to develop training and public policy with Saylor in mind.

“When an incident happens like this, it affects us all. And we know that we’re not perfect on the job that we do. We know there’s always better ways to do things. I think being part of this commission, we’re going to work toward that,” said Col. Marcus Brown, Maryland State Police.

The National Down Syndrome Society has been advocating for the Saylor family from day one.

“This is a very specific, concrete thing we’re seeing from what happened to Ethan on  Jan. 12, and I think it’s humbling. It’s rewarding, but we have a clear challenge in front of us because this could happen again,” an advocate said.

The commission plans to meet a couple more times before they present their report Jan. 9, which would’ve been Saylor’s 27th birthday.

The Saylor family has filed a federal lawsuit against the Frederick County sheriff’s office and the movie theater for the wrongful death of their son.

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