Ethan Saylor, man with down syndrome, who died in police custody, may have not needed movie ticket after all

10:11 PM, Aug 12, 2013   |    comments
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Robert Ethan Saylor (Photo from Stauffer Funeral Home)

WASHINGTON (WUSA9) -- It's been said that Ethan Saylor's death all came down to not having a $12 movie ticket. 

Twenty-six-year-old Saylor and his aide went to the movies in January to see Zero Dark Thirty. They bought two tickets. When it was over, the aide left to get the car, Ethan went back inside because he wanted to see the film again. He did not have a ticket for the second showing. That's when three off-duty Frederick's County Sherriff's deputies removed him. 

As we now know, he died after a hand-cuffed struggle and fall.

Now, we are finding out, he may not have even needed a ticket at all. Maryland Delegate and Democratic Gubernatorial Candidate Heather Mizeur is fighting for justice for Ethan, "It turns out that under the ADA laws, a caretaker doesn't need to have a ticket with someone with a disability at a movie theater anyway, so the two tickets that were purchased for Ethan and his caretaker would have been sufficient for him to stay a second time."

Mizeur wrote a letter to Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley asking for his help, "We can train our public safety officials and all of our public employees in the community at large to have a better understanding of how to address our neighbors that have intellectual disabilities."

The medical examiner ruled Ethan's death a homicide. The autopsy says asphyxiation. The Frederick County Sherriff's office investigated the incident. 

A grand jury found no wrongdoing on the part of those deputies.

Sara Weir with the National Down Syndrome Society in D.C. is asking the Governor for an independent investigation, "Governor O'Malley, we need you to appoint a special prosecutor to look into Ethan's tragic death. It was a wrongful death. He shouldn't have been put in that situation. There are many ways we could have de-escalated the situation and we need you to take action."

Calls to the Sherriff's office were referred to their lawyer. The lawyer hasn't called us back. We called the Governor's office. They declined our request for an interview but say they've been working with disability advocates to see what the State can do to prevent tragedies like this from happening again, including training for law enforcement. 

But, at this point, there is no word on whether they'll launch that independent investigation. 

The justice department is investigating. 

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