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Down Syndrome Man Died Suspiciously under Police Custody

Update Date: Feb 20, 2013 02:01 PM EST
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Robert Ethan Saylor, a 26-year-old man with down syndrome mysteriously died while in police custody last month. Saylor was described to be a huge admirer of the police force and would often call 911 to ask simple questions about the law and law enforcement. However, his latest encounter with three off duty cops ended his life and left the community was questions as to what exactly happened to the man.

Before Saylor's arrest, he was at his local movie theater in Frederick, MD watching "Zero Dark Thirty." According to an employee at the theater, Saylor wanted to watch the movie again but refused to pay for another ticket. He would not leave the premises and the employee felt forced to ask the three off-duty policemen, who were on a security post at the Westview Promenade shopping center nearby for assistance. The policemen proceeded to arrest Saylor who apparently started cursing, hitting, and kicking the cops. The policemen, who were not wearing their usual uniform, used three linked sets of handcuffs on Saylor and while escorting Saylor out of the theater, he fell into medical distress and was ruled deceased at the local hospital.

The autopsy report revealed that Saylor died from asphyxiation, indicting signs that a homicide might have occurred. After this examiner's report was released, the community was left with questions that the police force could not answer. More information regarding the case revealed that Saylor had an aid with him, and a simple phone call to his mother might have eased the situation. The amount of force that the deputies exerted on a mentally disabled person might not have been necessary at all. 

"Clearly it highlights a need for training, if there was none, or more and better training if there was some," commented Joseph Espo, the family's lawyer, regarding how the police handled the situation

Saylor's incident opens up debates and conversations regarding police training when it comes to mentally handicapped people. The police force states that all policemen are taught how to properly handle disabled people. The three cops, Lt. Scott Jewell, Sgt. Rich Rochford and Deputy 1st Class James Harris, have not commented on the incident and are all on paid administrative leave. The Sheriff's office, which does not have a history of mistreatment toward mentally disabled people, expressed its deep condolences for the Saylor family and stated that the case will be addressed seriously. 

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