Robert Ethan Saylor, a man with Down syndrome who died in police custody after being forcibly removed from a movie theater, could have lived if officers had been more patient and trained in how do deal with people with developmental disabilities, family members said.
The Frederick County Sheriff’s Office has completed its investigation into the death of the 26-year-old man, who died January 11 after being handcuffed and removed from the Regal Cinemas Westview Stadium 16.
In the incident, a movie theater employee called police after Saylor refused to either leave a theater or buy another ticket after a showing of Zero Dark Thirty. Police arrived, and Saylor reportedly cursed and resisted deputies, leading police to handcuff him with three sets of cuffs linked together, The Associated Press reported.
During the struggle with police, the man with Down syndrome had a medical emergency, and was taken to a local hospital where he was pronounced dead. A medical examiner ruled his death a homicide.
Now that the report has been completed, the case is being reviewed by three state’s attorneys to decide if the deputies will face charges.
The lawyer for Robert Ethan Saylor‘s family, Joseph Espo, said police didn’t handle the situation correctly, the Frederick News-Post reported.
“They could have just waited a couple of minutes for Ethan’s caregiver to return to the scene and let her deal with it,” Espo said. “He was sitting in his seat, while admittedly not having paid for another ticket, minding his own business. It was not an urgent situation that required immediate attention.”
When the caregiver did return to the theater, police ignored her and her attempts to de-escalate the situation, Espo noted. He added that police weren’t properly trained to handle someone with Down syndrome, contribute to Robert Ethan Saylor’s death.