HAGERSTOWN, Md. — National advocates for people with Down syndrome said Tuesday they are pressing for an independent investigation into the death of a man who suffocated while three security officers were trying to forcibly remove him from a movie theater.
The National Down Syndrome Congress and the National Down Syndrome Society said they have met twice with U.S. Justice Department officials about the Jan. 12 death of Robert Ethan Saylor, 26, of New Market. Saylor had Down syndrome.
Officials from the agency’s criminal and civil-rights divisions said on Monday that they need more information before deciding how to proceed, the advocacy groups said.
The executive director of the National Down Syndrome Congress said the officers caused Saylor’s death.
“Ethan did not die because he had Down syndrome. Ethan died because he was improperly restrained by three police officers,” said David Tolleson.
A Frederick County grand jury declined to indict the officers last month. They are Frederick County sheriff’s deputies who were moonlighting as mall security guards in Frederick. They were asked to remove Saylor from a movie theater auditorium that he had re-entered without paying for a second viewing of “Zero Dark Thirty.”
The Frederick County Sheriff’s Office says Saylor resisted and swore at the officers. An autopsy concluded he died from asphyxia after a struggle that ended with him in handcuffs, face-down on the floor. The state medical examiner ruled the death a homicide but said Saylor had a heart condition and other health problems that made him susceptible to sudden death.
The Frederick County Sheriff’s Office hasn’t publicly released its investigative file on the incident.
The advocacy groups have also demanded more police training in dealing with people with disabilities.
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