That fateful day, Robert Saylor just wanted to go to the movies to see "Zero dark Thirty," but he got much more than he bargained for when guards forcibly removed him from the theater, apparently killing him in the process. (Photo : Reuters)
The death of a Maryland man with Down syndrome who died in police custody has been ruled a homicide by asphyxiation, infuriating his family, who are desperate for answers.
The Maryland state medical examiner's office announced Friday Robert Ethan Saylor, a 26-year-old from New Market, Md., had died as a result of asphyxia and ruled his death a homicide, the Associated Press reported.
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Joseph B. Espo, the Saylors' attorney, said the man's family was still in shock after receiving the news, and that their relative's death was "beyond their imagination."
"I think what they most want to see out of the investigation is a clear account of what happened and why it happened," he said.
That fateful day, Robert Saylor just wanted to go to the movies to see "Zero dark Thirty," his mother Patti Saylor told WJLA. But he got much more than he bargained for Jan. 12 when guards forcibly removed him from the theater, according to the Associated Press.
After the movie, Saylor reportedly refused to leave, and security guards handcuffed him, and began to attempt to remove him from the building, the Sheriff's Office said, according to the Associated Press. However, Saylor started having what the Sheriff's Office said was a medical emergency before guards got out of the theater. Authorities then removed the handcuffs and transported Saylor to the hospital, where he later died, police said.
The incident occurred while the health aide who had accompanied Saylor had gone to get the car, Espo claimed Tuesday.
Dr. George Kirkham, a criminologist and former law enforcement officer, explained to the Frederick News Post that Saylor could have possibly died from "positional asphyxia."
The Post reported: "Positional asphyxia is typically the result of an intense struggle and often involves a person who is handcuffed and lying on their stomach after the struggle. Kirkham said people often panic and can't catch their breath. People with larger stomachs are particularly vulnerable, he said, because their bellies will push into their sternums, making breathing even more difficult."
The three guards who handled Saylor during the incident - all of whom are employees of the Sheriff's Office - have been placed on administrative leave "pending the outcome of the investigation."
Espo said he is worried about the Sheriff's Department conducting the investigation itself into its own officers. "We just think it would have been preferable to have an outside agency take a look," he said.
While, as the Huffington Post notes, police officers across the country are often not adequately trained - if at all - to deal with the suspects with special needs, police spokeswoman Cpl. Jennifer Bailey claimed Monday the deputies received training on interacting with individuals with mental health issues last year.
The Frederick County State's Attorney Charlie Smith is still determining whether or not to bring charges in the case, he said, the Huffington Post reported.