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Mother of Down Syndrome Man Who Died In Police Custody Wants Special Training for Law Enforcement

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LANHAM, Md. (WNEW/AP) — Ethan Saylor, 26, died of asphyxia in January 2013 as three Frederick County sheriff’s deputies moonlighting as security officers forcibly removed him from a Frederick movie theater because he hadn’t purchased a ticket for a repeat viewing of “Zero Dark Thirty.”

His death was ruled a homicide but a Frederick County grand jury refused to indict the involved officers.

Saylor’s mother spoke in front of a Senate Judiciary Subcommittee Tuesday, and said that federal funding is needed to support training of law enforcement when it comes to interacting with people who live with intellectual and developmental disabilities. She believes it could prevent other families from suffering as hers has.

“Before the Deputies approached Ethan, they were advised by Ethan’s support staffer that Ethan had Down syndrome, was sensitive to being touched, and that his mother (me) was on her way to assist,” she said in a written testimony.

“The Deputies ignored the information provided by his support staff and proceeded to manhandle him out of his seat. When he resisted this rough treatment, they forced him into a prone position and
handcuffed his hands behind his back with three sets of handcuffs.”

Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley created the Commission for Effective Community Inclusion of Individuals with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities after Saylor’s death. It includes state public safety officials, prosecutors, police agencies and advocates for people with disabilities. The first meeting was in October.

But Saylor says efforts need to go beyond Maryland.

“…we must set standards to ensure that quality and meaningful training is the standard across all law enforcement departments and public sector agencies.”

Saylor says her family’s advocacy journey since Ethan’s death has been two pronged — they want to achieve justice for Ethan and also ensure what happened to him “never happens to another member of the Down syndrome and disability community ever again.”

“We have heard from advocates and parents all around the world that have been touched by our story, are fearful this may happen to their son or daughter with a disability, and want to help advocate and ensure that something good comes out of our tragedy.”

(TM and Copyright 2014 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2014 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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