Friday, March 29, 2013

The Death of Robert Saylor: Was It Worth It?


Twelve. Dollars.

That's the cost of a movie ticket, likely the very same amount paid by Robert Saylor and his aide when they attended a January 12th showing of the movie, Zero Dark Thirty in Frederick, MD. 

Frederick, MD, not some back-woods community full of ignorance and mis-information, but, for all intents and purposes, a DC suburb, barely 30 minutes from the Northern Virginia county in which I live. 

twelve dollars twelve dollars twelve dollars twelve dollars twelvedollarstwelvedollarstwelvedollars...

Was it really worth it?

Some movie theater lackey, short on pay and long on boredom and the need for a little drama to spice up the day, called mall security to remove Robert Saylor from the theater as he refused to leave his seat, while his aide went to get the car

They couldn't even wait for her to return, to see if she could motivate him.

They couldn't just let it go

For the cost of a $12.00 seat.

A young man with an obvious intellectual disability goes to the movies, enjoys the film so much he wants to watch it again, refuses to leave his seat.  Mall security, three off-hours Frederick police officers moonlighting for a few extra bucks, are called, and come to the scene.  Not liking Mr. Saylor's attitude, they attempt to restrain him, cuffing him with 3 sets of cuffs (necessary due to his size) and turning him over with his face to the floor, asphyxiating him and causing his heart to stop.  He regained consciousness briefly before passing away in a moment of terror and confusion, away from anyone he loved, at the hands of the law-enforcement he idolized. 

I honestly thought this was a case that would take months, if not years, to resolve, and the conclusion that came forward a few days ago, barely 2 months from the death of this young man, was staggering. 

Not Guilty. 

Oh, so he had a heart problem!  And other health issues related to Down syndrome.  That justifies it.  Makes it okay.  Makes it a logical outcome of the events that transpired that fateful night.  They said he was susceptible to sudden death

You know what?  More than 50% of people with Down syndrome have heart defects.  Many with Down syndrome have obesity.  Other conditions.  Susceptible to sudden death?  Certainly more likely if placed under the brutal and unnecessary conditions Robert Saylor was subjected to in January. 

The guilt is two-fold. 

The police officers who strong-armed a man without waiting for the return of his aide, for refusing to leave his seat in the theater after the end of that showing are guilty of exerting unnecessary force on a man with a disability.

The theater lackey who reported Mr. Saylor to security because he refused to leave his $12 seat and wanted to stay through the next showing is guilty of making a very small situation into something catastrophic.  For what?  For twelve dollars???  In a theater full of empty seats, they just had to have that one vacated?  I sat through plenty of additional movie showings when I was a kid.  Nobody cared.  The lawyer for the Saylor family stated, “One of the options (the police) had was to simply tell the theater manager, 'We’re just simply not going to deal with this.’ They should have and could have just walked away.”

And the theater manager should have and could have let. it. go.

It could have been my kid.  The one whose enhanced genetic make-up gives her license to be just as stubborn, who can make the refusal to put her shoes on to go out somewhere into a precursor to war.

This could have been your kid.

Please sign this petition requesting additional investigation into his death, requesting that this kind of thing not be allowed to happen again.

Robert Saylor's life mattered


Anonymous said...

You know, no, the world doesn't owe anybody anything. Would it have been nice of the movie theater to let RS stay? I guess so. But they "should have" let him? No.
I think that much more than on the theater staff, this one is on the parents. If you can't guarantee that your kid will stick to the rules, don't put them in situations where this might be an issue. If you have a child with the IQ of an elementary school kid, treat them accordingly.
(Now, the rent-a-cops, they are a different story.)

Lisa said...

done - well put Becca

Kerri Ames said...

I'm sorry...but I kind of disagree with the post above. The parents did nothing wrong. The boy had an aide who left him to get the car. There is a lot of blame to go around. Should the theater just let Robert sit there? Well, okay no he doesn't get a free ticket. But that wasn't the case. The aide had called his mother and she was on her way.

We have so many fears and now we have to worry that police officers are not trained to deal with a person who so obviously had a disablity.

Shame on them AND shame on anyone who would place the blame on his parents. Sorry, this isn't at all how I wanted to respond but annonymous ticked me off.

Becca, awesome post. I am sharing it with everyone I know.

Chromosomally Enhanced said...

oh my my...i did not read this story and had no idea...this is one that is so sad that it is overwhelming and I must discuss this your first commenter REALLY!! do you have a child that is enhanced or a typical 4 year old...then your comment is ignorant...because stubborn comes with all means death is reasonable...and by all means blame the is most likely there fault he died because they could not raise him better NOT!! thank you for this post...very good...and i will sign! smiles

Alex said...

You know, no, the world doesn't owe anybody anything.
"I think that much more than on the theater staff, this one is on the parents. If you can't guarantee that your kid will stick to the rules, don't put them in situations where this might be an issue."

I absolutely agree with that. But this is a don syndrome blog, so we only get one side of the story.

1. dont put your child in a situation when you dont know it can handle well.

2. the "aide" should have informed the cinema personel,, that he left a child with special needs there and will be back soon - under this circumstances, they would have known, what they are up to. maybe they just would have let him sit there and let the aide deal with him.

dont alwys blame other people, just think about the possible outcome and other peoples perception of the situation before you do something

Lacey said...

Um, seriously! A person is dead! Down syndrome, black, white, whatever, it doesn't matter!

This is a Down syndrome blog so we only get one side of the story? Well you are here reading this blog, if your going to remain so ignorant why do you continue to come here?

There are "typical" kids that may be hard to control and throw a royal fit. Does that mean you sit on their back with their face in the floor and suffocate them?
Come on people, give me a break!

jen32258 said...

Hang on a second - the only "blame" to be made right now is on the cops who used completely excessive force. Did you miss the part where they used THREE pairs of handcuffs on him - three grown men throwing this guy down...and not one thought to check to make sure he could still breathe in that position? It was a bi-stander who pointed that out. He died of asphyxiation which makes it a homicide...plain and simple. All the rest of the details don't matter past that.

TUC said...

I find it disturbing that so many people are jumping up to question the judgement of Ethan's parents rather than the the judgement of 3 police officers who never met him before... I guess I just assumed that after 26 years, Ethan's mom knew him well enough to "let" him attend a movie with an aide to drive him.

The "world may not owe anybody anything" but cops have taken an oath to serve and protect... in this case they failed miserably, so much so that the autopsy report classified his death as a homicide.

The "other side" of the story is simply a deplorable stereotypical view of an adult with Down syndrome...

Let there be an independent investigation... that is the only way to know what really happened. Alex and Anon, you should go sign the petition because if what you believe really is the truth, then it will come out. If you are not afraid of the truth, go ask for it.

Dawn said...

No, the world doesn't owe anyone anything...that much is true. But to those people saying that it's the parent's fault have no idea. My daughter isn't the cute little 4year old anymore. She is 23 with an extra chromosome (Trisomy 9p). My heart goes out to Robert's family. He didn't deserve how he spent his last few minutes of life.

To Alex who said "this is down syndrome blog, so we only get one side of the story", you are wrong. This is about compassion for your fellow human being. The very stubbornness that kept Robert from getting out of that seat is likely what kept him alive through all his medical issues. I know it's the case with my daughter.

It's a shame that those involved couldn't have practiced a small amount of compassion. Then instead of a young man would've had a wonderful story of how to treat your fellow human beings.

CarrieBug said...

Anonymous - your comment is disgusting. If you think this man should be treated as a child then I guess you would think it appropriate for a child to be killed for acting out in public? Your reasoning is dark and twisted. This was a CRIME. And this was a disabled man out with his AIDE. Should he be kept in a cage? Where is your humanity?

Tuesona said...

Sad. Why must people be so ignorant. People with disabilities have enough issues without having stereotypes haunt them.

CarrieBug said...

Oh, I want to add, I think the world does owe disabled people something. Compassion and empathy being two things. Society should be protecting the vulnerable. Yes, we owe them that. This was so unfair.

The Annessa Family said...

I think the bottom line is that no one had the authority to tackle him to the ground. I was in a similar situation with an adult brain injury survivor. When it was clear the man was disabled and getting hostile I stepped away and called 911.

As the little sister to a big brother with DS who is 39, stubborn as hell, and loves the movies...this could easily be him.


Anonymous said...

I just wanted to shed some light on the incident. This was an accident. The three officers are pretty good guys just trying to earn some extra money at a part-time job. When they were called to the scene, they tried to talk to Mr. Saylor, but he was very upset and didn't want to leave. They talked with him for several minutes before he became agitated and began screaming. They were aware of his disability, but had to remove him from the theater where he was making so much noise. (Now, why didn't the theater just leave him alone? We'll never know. But the guys had to respond.) When they tried to physically remove him, he lashed out. Probably in fear. The officers just tried to calm him, there was no police brutality that you read about in some of the posts. And that's what all of the witness statements said. I kind of wish some witnesses would come forward, but I understand why they were warned not to. Anyway, they followed standard procedure and put him face-down in handcuffs. He immediately began having difficulty breathing. They took the cuffs off and rolled him over to find him not breathing. They began CPR and were able to resuscitate him. He stopped breathing again in the ambulance on the way to the hospital and they were unable to successfully intubate him. He passed away at the hospital. It's tragic. It's horrific. The officers feel terrible. There's no bravado or pride in this tragedy- they certainly don't feel it. There's no celebration that the Grand Jury determined no further action necessary. A boy died. And the officers are all well aware of it. New training procedures are going to be put into effect as a result of this. The guys didn't know putting him face-down might cause a cardiac event. They have elderly training- but not one series of training for any kind of disability.

Becca said...

Thank you for that, Anonymous. It truly breaks my heart to read that. I appreciate you coming to comment and tell more of the story.

Denise Mom of 4 Amazing Kids said...

I think as parents of a child with Down syndrome, this is a real fear for all of us. That the world won't understand our children as kids or adults, and that we can't be there all the time. It's proof from some of these comments people are still ignorant of Down syndrome and will always be. It's also proof that there are people in the world that I have feared since my little girl was born. It's the ones without love, compassion, and caring. I knew they were out there but I hoped we'd never encounter them. I try to explain to my friend that our kids are different. People will judge them and not understand them. She just says that's not going to be like that for my daughter, well the proof is here, we might not view them different but in the real world, they do, so it's up to us to educate people and pray for love, compassion and understanding.

Stacey said...

Hope this isn't a dual post- basically just wanted to say that good intentions don't excuse egregious actions and really bad judgement. The police on scene had a number of options available besides wrestling him to the floor and suffocating him. I won't insult anyone's intelligence by listing them, but I can think of a good five without stretching my imagination. Time was on their side. Is it convenient to use non-physical options? No, a relational approach takes longer, usually. But Mr. Saylor would still be alive had they exercised their problem-solving skills more strenuously before engaging physically. And they could have banned his attendance in future, cited him for a relevant infraction... At the same time, WHERE was his aide? How long does it take to move a car and why not take Mr. Saylor with you?