In their article, “‘Mommy! It hurt’ Tragic last words of Down syndrome man, 26, who died in handcuffs on the floor after he refused to leave a movie theater,” the Daily Mail provided an update of the warnings issued by a caretaker about the temperament of an unruly man with Down’s Syndrome that off duty Sheriff’s deputies were about to detain and remove from a movie theater for not holding a ticket for a second viewing. Instead, the man would die in their custody.
Having previously covered this story, I remain outraged at how carelessly some members of law enforcement have dispensed with life, and in this case, over such petty pretense.
But once again, we see a failure to prosecute the officers involved after grand juries refuse to indict them and their departments insist they were following procedure.
According to the Daily Mail, the decision was made back in March to pass on prosecution, despite the fact the medical examiner in Baltimore declared the death in the custody of moonlighting cops a ‘homicide.’ Instead, officials described the death as an unfortunate sudden ‘medical emergency’ the man was having while being detained at the theater:
State’s Attorney J. Charles Smith announced that Lt. Scott Jewell, Sgt. Rich Rochford and Deputy First Class James Harris would not face criminal charges in Saylor’s death.
‘Those involved have yet to acknowledge responsibility or admit his death so easily could have been avoided with common sense, patience and understanding,’ Patti Saylor stated in her post this week.
Moreover, it has now been revealed that Saylor’s 18-year-old caretaker had reportedly warned the upset theater manager and law enforcement officers “Please don’t touch him, he will freak out,” noting how easily he became upset and enraged.
Robert Ethan Saylor, the 26 year old man with Down’s Syndrome who died at the hands of actions ruled ‘homicide,’ was undoubtedly difficult to deal with when he refused to leave the (uncrowded) movie theater where he wished to stay for a repeated viewing of the film Zero Dark Thirty. But what of it? Did his actions harm society? Hardly. Instead, society has been harmed by protecting those who harmed him because they Frederick County Sheriff’s deputies.
Moreover, the burden of dealing with potentially fussy behavior from people with special needs should be met with love and patience. Such people symbolize the innocence in our world; the world does not need to be filled with such people who could take life in handling this man or any like him. They certainly don’t need to be employed in the role of ‘protecting’ society. But the system has overgrown into a hypocritical farce.
All-the-more, it has happened over such a minor offense as refusing to leave a movie theater in order to stay for a second screening. The off duty deputies working as security guards – numbering three in this case – must be some of the lowest people around for not being able to resolve the situation without taking a life.
Worse still is the trend of protecting LEOs, politicians, financiers, Big Pharma drug pushers, etc. from prosecution or justice at seemingly all costs. How could society possibly benefit from creating classes and trades immune from the law? Why should bad cops and criminal businessmen not be held accountable, under the law, rather than take over and dominate the culture of their profession?
It is ludicrous that a doctor could rule rule ‘homicide’ but that – once again – the officers involved would be beyond the reach of punishment for their actions, if found guilty after being tried.
The case may not be have been as blatantly cruel as the Oscar Grant case, where a BART transit cop shot to death the passenger for failing to hold a train ticket, but it was close enough and the pattern is the same. Both tragedies occurred due to such an extreme overreaction by those supposedly meant to shepherd society that it involved the on-the-spot penalty of death of people already in handcuffs over offenses that amount to a few measly bucks, while both sets of cops went virtually unpunished.
Instead of BART cop Johannes Mehserle being sentenced to life in prison for the cruel killing of a man already in custody (albeit unruly) (which is suggested by the video captured of the event), the BART cop was sentenced to only two years in prison for “involuntary manslaughter,” and released after only one year for ‘good behavior.’
In another shocking case, Seattle police officer Ian Birk was captured on dashcam video killing Indian woodcarver and reputed alcoholic John Williams. Despite an attempt on the part of police to paint Williams as a constant bother to the community, the dashcam video paints a pretty clear case of absurdly excessive abuse. Yet, protected by police unions and official pressure, Birk faced no charges, and resigned his post.
While it goes without saying that police and other law enforcement officials have tough jobs, and must face many dangerous situations with many dangerous people, they cannot be trusted or supported by the public when they are unable to use appropriate responses to a situation. Common sense should dictate that even a ‘resistant’ and unruly person can be calmed or at least contained without killing them once already in custody.
Had those involved in this shameful incident exercised a bit of wisdom and patience, they would not have blood on their hands and an outraged community now seeking an independent investigation to seek justice that will also harm their public image as a department (and rightfully so).
Instead, Robert Ethan Saylor would have eventually calmed down, and the matter would have been a misunderstanding, and off duty officers would have earned an easy paycheck watching over … a movie theater.