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Ethan Saylor’s Death May Change How Sheriff’s Office Operates

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FREDERICK COUNTY, Md. (WJZ) — The case created a major push for change in the way first responders deal with the disabled.

Now, one year later, Monique Griego has more on how Ethan Saylor’s death is changing the Frederick County Sheriff’s Office.

The deputies involved in the incident were cleared of any criminal wrongdoing but the tragic events of that day showed a need for training within the department.

In January 2013, 26-year-old Ethan Saylor, a man with Down syndrome, tried to re-enter a movie theater without paying. He died when Frederick County Sheriff’s deputies tried to forcibly remove him. The incident shocked the community and sparked an outcry for change.

“We heard the cry. We heard the need that training was needed in this field,” said Sheriff Chuck Jenkins.

Jenkins spoke with WJZ just as a group of deputies began that new training. The sessions are being taught by Mount St. Mary’s University professionals. They reached out to the department after learning of Saylor’s death.

Dr. Gregory Ochoa offers a unique perspective as a mental health professional and father of an adult child with disabilities. He hopes to teach deputies how to identify someone who has an intellectual disability versus the mentally ill and how to deescalate or defuse a situation.

“They have a disability that doesn’t allow them to communicate or understand in the same way,” Ochoa said.

Saylor’s death was ruled a homicide by asphyxiation but the deputies involved were cleared of any criminal wrongdoing.

His mother has since become an advocate for better, more comprehensive training for law enforcement.

“Our loss is a gift to us to do something with,” said Patti Saylor, Ethan’s mother.

“There’s never been a block of training like this in law enforcement. It’s a different dynamic, a different segment that we have to deal with every day,” Jenkins said.

The training began this January and ends in June.

Saylor’s family has filed a civil suit against the sheriff’s office and the officers involved.

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