Questions remain about Ethan Saylor, with Down syndrome, who died in police custody

10:21 PM, Aug 8, 2013   |    comments
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FREDERICK, Md. (WUSA9) -- 26-year-old Ethan Saylor went to watch a movie and in the end, he was dead.

Saylor, a Frederick man with Down syndrome, died while in the custody of three off-duty Frederick County Sheriff's deputies outside a movie theater back in January. His mother still has no answers, and a local lawmaker is pushing for Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley to get her some.

Patti Saylor's son Ethan died in January. In March, a grand jury decided not to indict those three deputies on criminal charges. A month later, they were back at work.

But today, Patti Saylor says she has no answers as to why her son - who loved movies and police - had to die. She's outraged and after reading this story, you may be too.

"I think the community needs to be completely outraged...they should be outraged that a young man in his community goes to the theater and doesn't come home," she said. 

We now know Ethan died of asphyxiation after being handcuffed by three off-duty Frederick County Sherriff's deputies, working as security at this movie theater.

Patti says the Medical Examiner report rocked her to her core, "And the manner of death was homicide." So, why did a grand jury choose not to indict those three men? Patti gives her opinion: "I don't believe there was a thorough investigation, I don't believe that it's possible to have a thorough investigation done by the same agency that's involved in the altercation."

Now, Saylor wants an independent investigation. She says Ethan went to the Regal Cinemas Westview Stadium 16 to see the film "Zero Dark Thirty," with his aide, back on January 12th. When the film was over, he didn't want to leave. His aide went to get the car. 

"He wanted to watch a movie again, he didn't have money but he was trying to figure out a way to pay for a ticket," Patti said. 

Patti says Ethan went back inside, sat down and, since he didn't have money, he used his cell phone to call 411. That's when those three deputies confronted him. The discussion escalated, and the three deputies placed three sets of handcuffs on Ethan and escorted him out, When they got to a ramp, they all lost their footing, and tumbled down. Not long after that Ethan was dead.

Patti rushed to the hospital, "It was completely heartbreaking and completely gut-wrenching and then to begin to try and find out what happened. We really didn't have the answers."

Seven months later, she still doesn't. She admits Ethan didn't have a ticket, didn't want to leave, and may have cursed at the deputies, but she says the deputies ignored Ethan's aide's advice, and used force to kick Ethan out.

Maybe they didn't know how to communicate with someone with Down syndrome, maybe they didn't care. What we do know is in the end, a dispute over a $12 dollar movie ticket left a man dead.

Patti says she thinks about Ethan practically every moment of every day, "He gave us hugs kisses and "I love you's" all day and we miss that. There's nothing else to say, he shouldn't be gone."

That autopsy also said there was unexplained damage to Ethan's larynx, although no witnesses reported seeing the deputies touching Ethan's neck.

The Justice Department is now investigating. We called the Frederick County Sherriff's office. They referred us to their lawyer who did not return our calls.

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