Robert Ethan Saylor was 24 years of age when he died of asphyxiation. His life probably wasn’t an easy one, having Down Syndrome, but it was his. Even so, it was taken from him because a few police officers were just doing their job the same way they always do their job.
Via Z6Mag :
He was at the movies with a health aide the night of the incident. When the movie, Zero Dark Thirty ended, he refused to leave so employees called the police. Three deputies came to handle the situation. Saylor was handcuffed and was allegedly resisting when he had what authorities describe as a “medical emergency.” Better stated as, they found out he had down syndrome.
That last line is snappy, but wrong. It isn’t possible the police had no clue that Saylor had Down Syndrome. He is the poster boy for it, with clear physical manifestations. While police may mistakenly think a deaf person heard their command before killing them, or a blind person could see the glint of their shield, there is no mistaking a person with Down Syndrome.
Whether the movie theater’s employees were correct in their handling of a recalcitrant moviegoer who refused to leave (or buy a new ticket) when the movie ended is one thing. No doubt in retrospect, they might have preferred to be more generous toward Saylor. It’s unimaginable that they saw his overstaying his license as an offense worthy of death.
So the employees did what they were told to do, what most people do when they have a person who won’t follow their rules, they called the cops.
According to a law enforcement source, the 26-year-old went into distress when he was put face down on the ground. Deputies removed the handcuffs and took him to a hospital, where he was later declared deceased.
The details of death are a bit lacking. It’s not that nobody knows, but that the officers involved had something that Saylor lacked .
The deputies exercised their rights under the Law Enforcement Officers’ Bill of Rights and have not made statements in the case, Bailey said.
The deputies who were with Saylor at the time of his death, identified as Lt. Scott Jewell, Sgt. Rich Rochford and Deputy First Class James Harris, continue to work their normal assignments while the case is being investigated.
It’s not there isn’t law to protect people. Indeed, there is. It’s just that it’s not only far more favorable to police than to anyone else in our society, but it’s the one law that the police scrupulously honor. While the three officers who invoked their right to be left alone remain on the job, the rest of us scramble to know how a ticket dispute ended with Saylor’s death by suffocation. It’s a horrible way to die.
Dr. George Kirkham a criminologist and former law enforcement officer told the Post , “The circumstances surrounding Saylor’s death suggest a possible case of positional asphyxia, which often goes hand in hand with a phenomenon called sudden in-custody death syndrome.”
“Positional asphyxia is typically the result of an intense struggle and often involves a person who is handcuffed and lying on their stomach after the struggle.” Kirkham says, “People often panic and can’t catch their breath. People with larger stomachs are particularly vulnerable, because their bellies will push into their sternums, making breathing even more difficult.”
This is why it’s important to note that the police officers could not possibly have been unaware that Saylor manifested the physical appearance of a person with Down Syndrome. What isn’t said is whether Saylor, lying on the ground in a movie theater so that cops can subdue and cuff him in the manner that affords the police the greatest degree of personal safety was accompanied by the other normal conduct: A knee with the full weight of an officer pushing down into the small of his back? A officer sitting on his shoulder blades? The ubiquitous boot pressing against his spine with a police officer’s heft holding him supine?
As we don’t know the details of what was actually done to Saylor now, the likelihood that we’ll ever know the truth is slim. What we know with certainty is that a young man is dead over what amounts to a business dispute over $11, and some cops who did their job of protecting the theater’s financial interest by use of their routine method of subduing a man who obviously had Down Syndrome.
Some will think, “wow, just wait until the lawsuit where the family will win a fortune!” Others will cry for the cops to be fired or prosecuted for Saylor’s death. When we speak of a person needlessly killed, the issue of remedy isn’t the point. The issue is why was a human being’s life lost.
It’s not easy going through life with a disability. It’s unlikely that Saylor ever knew the joy of a young woman’s loving touch. He probably didn’t have a posse to hang out with and watch the Ravens while chugging a few brewskies. When he shopped for clothing, chances are he wasn’t very concerned with whether members of the opposite sex would think the pants made his butt look fat. Still, he experienced love, joy, satisfaction and accomplishment, even if not the same as other people.
This was his life. And it was taken from him for nothing by three police officers who were just doing their job, even thougy they knew, they had to know, that they were dealing with a young man with Down Syndrome.